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THE Donation of Constantine — the most famous forgery 
in European history; papal authority — since the triumph 
of Christianity the most perennial question of European 
society; historical criticism — one of the most comprehensive, most 
alluring, and most baffling enterprises of the modern mind; 
Lorenzo Valla — the greatest of the professional Italian human- 
ists; these lines of study have converged, accidentally perhaps, to 
call forth the following pages. Much of the subject matter which 
might properly form their introduction I have already treated 
more fully in an earlier work,^ and a brief statement will suffice 

The Donation of Constantine (Constitutum Constantini), 
written probably not long after the middle of the eighth century, 
became widely known through its incorporation in the Pseudo- 
Isidorian Decretals (about 847-853). Parts of it were included in 
most of the medieval collections of canon law; Anselm's, Deus- 
dedit's, and Gratian's great work (the Decretum, or Concordia 
discordantium canonum). It purports to reproduce a legal docu- 
ment in which the Emperor Constantine the Great, reciting his 
baptism and the cure of his leprosy at the hands of Sylvester, 
Bishop of Rome 314-336, confirmed the privilege of that pontiff 
as head of all the clergy and supreme over the other four patriarch- 
ates; conferred upon him extensive imperial property in various 
parts of the world, especially the imperial Lateran palace, and the 
imperial diadem and tiara, and other imperial insignia; granted 
the Roman clergy the rank of the highest Roman orders and their 

1 C. B. Coleman, Constantine the Great and Christianity, three phases: the his- 
torical, the legendary, and the spurious. Columbia University Studies in History, 
Economics and Public Law, vol. LX, no. i. Columbia University Press, and 
Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 1914. 


privileges; gave Sylvester and his successors freedom in conse- 
crating men for certain orders of the clergy; it tells how he, Con- 
staiitine, recognized the superior dignity of the Pope by holding 
the bridle of his horse; grants Sylvester Rome, all of Italy, and 
the western provinces, to remain forever under the control of the 
Roman See; and states his own determination to retire to Byzan- 
tium in order that the presence of an earthly emperor may not 
embarrass ecclesiastical authority. This remarkable document was 
almost universally accepted as genuine from the ninth to the 
fifteenth century. 

The question of the position of the bishop of Rome in the Chris- 
tian Church lacks but a few generations of being as old as 
Christianity itself. His relation to secular governments became an 
acute problem as soon as the imperial government broke down in 
Italy, and has remained so to the present moment. For centuries 
the Papacy was the strongest institution in western Europe. While 
its control at any one time rested principally on the power it ac- 
tually possessed and on the ability of its representatives, legal 
theories and historical documents played a not inconsiderable part 
in its rise and decline. Of these documents the Donation of Con- 
stantine was perhaps the most spectacular, even though it was not 
the most important. It was cited by no less than ten Popes of 
whom we know, to mention no lesser writers, in contentions for 
the recognition of papal control, and contributed not a little to 
the prestige of the Papacy. On the other hand, when its spurious- 
ness became known, the reaction against it, as in Luther's case, 
contributed powerfully to the revolt from Rome. Its century-long 
influence entitles it to a respect difficult for any one who now reads 
it to feel. And Valla's discussion of it contains many interesting 
reflections on the secular power of the Papacy, perhaps the most 
interesting expression in this connection of fifteenth century 
Italian humanism. 

Among the achievements of modern historical criticism Valla's 
work was a conspicuous pioneer. Its quality and its importance 
have often been exaggerated, and as often underestimated. It is 
some satisfaction to make it more generally available in the origi- 


nal text and translation, so that the reader may judge for him- 
self. A critical appraisal would have to take into account that 
Nicholas Cusanus some seven years earlier in his De concordantiai 
catholica covered part of the same ground even better than Vallai 
did, and anticipated some of his arguments. But Valla's treatise is, 
more exhaustive, is in more finished and effective literary form, 
and in effect established for the world generally the proof of the 
falsity of the Donation. Moreover, for the first time, he used effec- 
tively the method of studying the usage of words in the variations 
of their meaning and application, and other devices of internal 
criticism which are the tools of historical criticism to-day. So, 
while Valla's little book may seem slight beside later masterpieces 
of investigation and beside systematic treatises in larger fields, it 
is none the less a landmark in the rise of a new science. I speak 
from personal experience in adding that it is still useful in college 
classes in promoting respect for, and development in, critical 

As to Valla himself the words of Erasmus will bear repetition; 
"Valla, a man who with so much energy, zeal and labor, refuted 
the stupidities of the barbarians, saved half-buried letters from 
extinction, restored Italy to her ancient splendor of eloquence, and 
forced even the learned to express themselves henceforth with 
more circumspection."^ The Italian Renaissance is much extolled 
among us, — and so little known. A short time ago diligent search 
revealed no copy of Valla's works in the United States, and many 
of the larger libraries had none of his separate writings. The same 
is doubtless true in the case of other great names in the Renais- 
sance. Meanwhile, there are those whose profession it is to teach 
European history and who are utterly unacquainted with medieval 
and later Latin. 

The best life of Valla is that by Girolamo Mancini.^ There is no 
satisfactory account of him in English. 

Valla wrote his Discourse on the Forgery of the alleged Dona- 

^ F. M. Nichols, ed., Epistles of Erasmus. Longmans, Green & Co., New York, 

2 Vita di Lorenzo Valla (Florence, 1891). 


tion of Constantine (Declamatio de falso credita et ementita dona- 
tione Constantini, also referred to as Libellus, and Oratio) in 
! 1440, when he was secretary to Alfonso, king of Aragon, Sicily, 
and Naples. It may well be considered as part of the campaign 
which that king was conducting against Pope Eugenius IV in 
furtherance of his claims to Italian territories. 

There has hitherto been no satisfactory text of this treatise. The 
first printed edition, that of Ulrich von Hutten, in 1517, is ex- 
cessively rare, and it, as well as its numerous reprints, is defective 
in places. The same is true of the text in the collected works of 
Valla, the Opera, printed at Basle, 1540, 1543 (?). The only 
English edition, by Thomas Godfray (London, 1525 ?), is rare 
and of no great merit. A modern French edition by Alcide Bon- 
neau (La Donation de Constantin, Paris, 1879) gives the text 
with a French translation and a long introduction. It is based on 
the 1520 reprint of Hutten 's edition, is polemical, uncritical, and 
admittedly imperfect. A modern edition with translation into 
Italian (La dissertazione di Lorenzo Valla su la falsa e manzo- 
gnera donazione di Costantino tradotta in Italiano da G. Vincenti, 
Naples, 1895) is out of print. 

My text is based on the manuscript Codex Vaticanus 5314,, 
dated December 7, 1451, the only complete manuscript of the 
treatise I have been able to find. I have collated this with 
Hutten's text as found in one of the earliest, if not the earliest, 
reprint (contained in the little volume De Donatione Constantini 
quid veri habeat, etc., dated 1520 in the Union Theological Semi- 
nary library copy, but corresponding closely to the one dated 1518 
in E. Bocking's edition of the works of Ulrich von Hutten, vol. I, 
p. 18), and have occasionally used readings from Hutten's text or 
later ones, such as that of Simon Schard,^ but in every instance 
I have indicated the MS. reading. I have used uniform, current 
spelling and punctuation, and have used my own judgment in 

Preceding Valla's treatise I reprint, with a translation, the text 

1 Syntagma tractatuum de imperial! iurisdictione, etc., Strassburg, 1609; first 
published under a similar title at Basle, 1566. 


of the Donation as given, with the omission of long sections, in 
Gratian's Decretum, or Concordia discordantinm canonum, which 
was the form Valla used and on which he based his criticism. I 
take it from A. Friedberg's edition of the Corpus luris Canonici, 
vol. I, columns 342-345. The full text of the Donation is best 
given by Karl Zeumer, in the Festgabe fiir Rudolf von Gneist 
(Julius Springer, Berlin, 1888), pp. 47-59, reprinted among other 
places in my Constantine the Great and Christianity, pp. 228-237. 
The document may be studied to advantage also in the Decretales 
Pseudo-Isidorianae et Capitula Angilramni, ed. Hinschius (Leip- 
sic, 1863). An English translation, from Zeumer's text, is in E. F. 
Henderson's Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, 
pp. 319-329. 

In the translation of passages of the Donation I have, so far as 
possible, used the words of Henderson's translation. In quotations 
from the Bible I have used the King James version. In translating 
Valla's quotations from the Donation I have usually, though not 
always, followed him in giving words their classical and not their 
medieval meaning. 

The Donation of Constantine grew out of the legends about 
Sylvester I, Bishop of Rome, as well as out of legends about Con- 
stantine. These are described at length in Constantine the Great 
and Christianity. The most familiar form of the Sylvester-Con- 
stantine legend is that of Mombritius' Sanctuarium, sive Vitae 
collectae ex codibus, Milan, c. 1470, vol. II, folio 279: Paris, 1910, 
vol. II, pp. 508-531- 

Present-day scholarship is not in entire agreement on all points 
connected with the Donation of Constantine. The following sum- 
mary, however, may be hazarded. The problem of modern criti- 
cism, of course, is, not to establish the spuriousness of the 
Donation, — that has long been obvious, — but to locate the origin 
of the document as closely as possible. 

The development of the Sylvester-Constantine legend was 
worked out best by DoUinger (Papstfabeln des Mittelalters, Mu- 
nich, 1863: ed., J. Friedrich, Stuttgart, 1890) and by Duchesne (f 
(in his edition of the Liber Pontificalis, vol. I, 1886, pp. cvii-cxx). 


These have shown the existence at Rome, as early as the last of 
the sixth century, of the story which forms most of the narrative 
part of the Donation, and gave the forger the whole of his back- 

The earliest known manuscript of the document is in the Codex 
Parisiensis Lat. 2778, in the Collectio Sancti Dionysii, found in 
the monastery of St. Denis, in France. The collection contains 
documents dating from the last years of the eighth century, though 
it may have been put together later. The collected Pseudo-Isi- 
dorean Decretals, in which the Donation was virtually published 
to the world, in the middle of the ninth century, also came out in 
France. French writers of the ninth century, also, were the first, 
so far as we know, to refer to the Donation. Such facts help to fix 
the date of the forgery, but under the circumstances they do not 
fix the place as France. Rather they are merely another illustra- 
tion of the well-known leadership of France in learning and 
politics during the ninth century. 

Linguistic peculiarities of the document have been most exhaus- 
tively treated by one of the greatest of critical historians, Paul 
Scheffer-Boichorst,^ not to speak of briefer studies by DoUinger, 
Brunner, and others. In the full text of the Donation, as for in- 
stance the one published by Zeumer, are found many features 
distinctive of Italian documents of the eighth century, and a num- 
ber that apparently are peculiar to the chancellery of Stephen II 
(III), Bishop of Rome 752-757, and of Paul I (757-767), more 
particularly the latter. (Some of these do not occur in the passages 
and the text which Valla used; that is, in his copy of Gratian's 
Decretum.) This is true in varying degrees of particularity of the 
form or usage of the following words; synclitus (for senatus) in 
§ 15, banda (for vexillum) in § 14, censura (diploma) in § 17, 
constitutum (decretum) in §§ 17 and 18, retro (applied to the 
future) in §§ i and 19, largitas (possessio) in § 13, consul and 

1 Neue Forschungen uber die Konstantinische Schenkung, in Mittheilungen d. 
Instituts fiir bsterr. Geschiclitsforscliung, vol. X (1889), pp.'jas-et seq., XI (1890), 
pp. 128 et seq. Reprinted in his Gesammelte Schriften in the Historische Studien of 
E. Eberling, vol. XLII. 


patricius (as mere designations of rank) in § 15, vel (et) in §§ 11, 
12, 13, 16, 19, seu (et) in §§ 14 and 17, satraps (as a Roman 
official) in §§ 8, II, and 19, and inluminator in § 7 in some manu- 
scripts. The following phrases, also, are more or less distinctive; 
Deo amabilis in § i, Deo vivo qui nos regnare precipit in § 19, uno 
ex eadem sancta Trinitate in § i, principem apostolorum vel eius 
vicarios firmos apud Deum adesse patronos in § 11, pro concinna- 
tione luminarionim in § 13, et subscriptio imperialis in § 20, pro- 
priis manibus roborantes in § 20, religiosus clericus in § 15. The 
first part of § 4, Tres itaque formae . . . hominem, is very similar 
to part of a letter of Paul I's in 757. In short, the language of the 
Donation seems to point to the papal chancellery as the place of its 
origin, and the pontificate of Paul I (757-767) as the most 
probable time. 

That also seems to offer the situation and environment which 
would most naturally call forth the document as we have it. This 
is well brought out by Ludo Moritz Hartmann in his Geschichte 
Italiens im Mittelalter,^ and by Erich Caspar in his Pippin und 
die romische Kirche.^ The Papacy was then cutting loose from 
the Emperor at Constantinople and ignoring his representatives in 
Italy, as well as developing its own independent policy toward 
Italian territory, toward the Lombards, and toward the Franks. 
The aim of the forger seems to have been the characteristically 
medieval one of supplying documentary warrant for the existence 
of the situation which had developed through a long-drawn-out 
revolution, namely, the passage of imperial prerogatives and po- 
litical control in Italy from the Emperor to the Papacy. Hence, 
along with general statements of papal primacy, and of gifts of 
property, detailed and explicit stress is laid upon the granting of 
imperial honors, the imperial palace, and imperial power to the 
Pope, and upon the right of the Roman clergy to the privileges of 
the highest ranks of Roman society. Legal confirmation was thus 
given for riding roughshod over the vestiges and memories of the 
imperial regime in Italy and for looking to the Papacy as the 

III, ii (Leipsic, 1903), pp. 218-231. 
2 Berlin, 1914, pp. 185-189. 


source of all honors and dignities. Furthermore we know that 
Paul I was extremely devoted to the memory of Sylvester, and so 
it may well have been under his influence that this document came 
into existence with its tribute to Sylvester's personal character and 
historic significance. 

I wish to give public expression of my thanks to Professor 
Deane P. Lockwood, of Columbia University, for his kindness in 
reading my translation of Valla's treatise and the many sugges- 
tions and improvements he indicated; to Professor J. T. Shotwell, 
of Columbia University, who was largely responsible for the be- 
ginning of the whole undertaking; and to Mr. Alexander D. 
Fraser, of Allegheny College, for generous assistance in reading 





CONSTANTINUS imperator coronam, et omnem regiam 
dignitatem in urbe Romana, et in Italia, et in partibus 
occidentalibus Apostolico concessit. Nam in gestis B. 
Silvestri (que B. Papa Gelasius in concilio LXX. episcoporum a 
catholicis legi commemorat, et pro antiquo usu multas hoc imitari 
dicit ecclesias) ita legitur:] 


CONSTANTINUS imperator quarta die sui baptismi privi- 
legium Romanae ecclesiae Pontifici contulit, ut in toto orbe 
Romano sacerdotes ita hunc caput habeant, sicut indices regem. 

1 Corpus luris Canonici, ed. Aemilius Friedberg, Leipsic, 1879, vol. I, p. 342. 

2 The subject of cc. xi and xii is ; Imperatores debent Pontificibus subesse, non 
preesse. [Ed.] 








THE Emperor Constantine yielded his crown, and all his 
royal prerogatives in the city of Rome, and in Italy, and 
in western parts to the Apostolic [See] . For in the Acts 
of the Blessed Sylvester (which the Blessed Pope Gelasius in the 
Council of the Seventy Bishops recounts as read by the catholic, 
and in accordance with ancient usage many churches he says 
follow this example) occurs the following:] 


THE Emperor Constantine the foiu-th day after his baptism 
conferred this privilege on the Pontiff of the Roman church, 
that in the whole Roman world priests should regard him as 

1 The meaning of this word in this connection is unknown. The chapters to 
which it is prefixed are for the most part supposed to have been early marginal 
annotations afterwards incorporated in the text of the Decretum. Cf. Friedberg, 
Corpus luris Canonici, vol. I, Prolegomena, p. Ixxxvi. 

2 The subject of chapters xi and xii is, "The Emperors must be under the Pon- 
tiffs, not over them." Chapters xiii and xiv continue the same subject. 


In eo privilegio ita inter cetera legitur: "Utile iudicavimus una 
cum omnibus satrapis nostris, et universo senatu optimatibusque 
meis, etiam et cuncto populo Romanae gloriae imperio subiacenti, 
ut sicut B. Petrus in terris vicarius Filii Dei esse videtur consti- 
tutus, ita et Pontifices, qui ipsius principis apostolorum gerunt 
vices, principatus potestatem amplius quam terrena imperialis 
nostrae serenitatis mansuetudo habere videtur, concessam a nobis 
nostroque imperio obtineant, eligentes nobis ipsum principem 
apostolorum vel eius vicarios firmos apud Deum esse patronos. Et 
sicut nostram terrenam imperialem potentiam, sic eius sacro- 
sanctam Romanam ecclesiam decrevimus veneranter honorari, et 
amplius quam nostrum imperium et terrenum thronum sedem 
sacratissimam B. Petri gloriose exaltari, tribuentes ei potestatem, 
et gloriae dignitatem atque vigorem, et honorificentiam imperi- 
alem. Atque decernentes sancimus, ut principatum teneat tam 
super quatuor precipuas sedes, Alexandrinam, Antiocenam, leroso- 
limitanam, Constantinopolitanam, quam etiam super omnes in 
universo orbe terrarum ecclesias Dei, et Pontifex, qui pro tempore 
ipsius sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae extiterit, celsior et princeps 
cunctis sacerdotibus totius mundi existat, et eius iudicio queque 
ad cultum Dei vel fidei Christianorum stabilitatem procuranda 
fuerint disponantur. Et infra: §. i. Ecclesiis beatorum aposto- 
lorum Petri et Pauli pro continuatione luminariorum possessionum 
predia contulimus, et rebus diversis eas ditavimus, et per nostram 
imperialem iussionem sacram tam in oriente, quam in occidente, 
vel etiam septentrionali et meridiana plaga, videlicet in ludea, 
Grecia, Asia, Thracia, Affrica et Italia, vel diversis insulis, nostra 
largitate ei concessimus, ea prorsus ratione, ut per manus bea- 
tissimi patris nostri Silvestri summi Pontificis successorumque 
eius omnia disponantur. Et injra: §. 2. Beatro Silvestro Patri 
nostro, summo Pontifici et universalis urbis Romae Papae, et 
omnibus, eius successoribus Pontificibus, qui usque in finem mundi 


their head, as judges do the king. In this privilege among other 
things is this: "We— together with all our satraps, and the whole 
senate and my nobles, and also all the people subject to the 
government of glorious Rome — considered it advisable, that as the 
Blessed Peter is seen to have been constituted vicar of the Son 
of God on the earth, so the Pontiffs who are the representatives 
of that same chief of the apostles, should obtain from us and our 
empire the power of a supremacy greater than the clemency of 
our earthly imperial serenity is seen to have conceded to it, 
choosing that same chief of the apostles and his vicars to be our 
constant intercessors with God. And to the extent of our ear^ily 
imperial power, we have decreed that his holy Roman church 
shall be honored with veneration, and that more than our empire 
and earthly throne the most sacred seat of the Blessed Peter 
shall be gloriously exalted, we giving to it power, and dignity of 
glory, and vigor, and honor imperial. And we ordain and decree 
that he shall have the supremacy as well over the four principal 
seats, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople, as 
also over all the churches of God in the whole earth. And the 
Pontiff, who at the time shall be at the head of the holy Roman 
church itself, shall be more exalted than, and chief over, all the 
priests of the whole world, and according to his judgment everyr 
thing which is provided for the service of God and for the 
stability of the faith of Christians is to be administered. And 
below: §. i. On the churches of the blessed apostles Peter and 
Paul, for the providing of the lights, we have conferred landed 
estates of possessions, and have enriched them with different 
objects, and through our sacred imperial mandate we have granted 
him of our property in the east as well as in the west, and even 
in the northern and the southern quarter; namely, in Judea, 
Greece, Asia, Thrace, Africa, and Italy and the various islands; 
under this condition indeed, that all shall be administered by the 
hand of our most blessed father the supreme Pontiff, Sylvester, 
and his successors. And below: §. 2. And to our Father, the 
Blessed Sylvester, supreme Pontiff and Pope universal, of the 
city of Rome, and to all the Pontiffs, his successors, who shall sit 


in sede B. Petri erunt sessuri, de presenti contradimus palatium 
imperii nostri Lateranense, deinde diadema, videlicet coronam 
capitis nostri, simulque frigium, nee non et superhumerale, vi- 
delicet lorum, quod imperiale circumdare assolet collum; varum 
etiam et clamidem purpuream, atque tunicam coccineam, et omnia 
imperialia indumenta ; sed et dignitatem imperialium presidentium 
equitum, conferentes etiam et imperialia sceptra, simulque cuncta 
signa, atque banda, et diversa ornamenta imperialia, et omnem 
processionem imperialis culminis et gloriam potestatis nostrae. 
§. 3. Viris autem reverentissimis clericis in diversis ordinibus 
eidem sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae servientibus illud culmen 
singularitate, potentia et precellentia habere sancimus, cuius 
amplissimus noster senatus videtur gloria adornari, id est patri- 
cios atque consules effici, nee non et ceteris dignitatibus imperiali- 
bus eos promulgamus decorari. Et sicut imperialis milicia ornatur, 
ita et clerum sanctae Romanae ecclesiae ornari decernimus. Et 
quemadmodum imperalis [sic] potentia offitiis diversis, cubicu- 
lariorum nempe, et ostiariorum, atque omnium excubitorum 
ornatur, ita et sanctam Romanam ecclesiam decorari volumus. Et 
ut amplissime pontificale decus prefulgeat, decernimus et hoc, 
clericorum eiusdem sanctae Romanae ecclesiae manipulis et linte- 
aminibus, id est candidissimo colore, decorari equos, ita et equi- 
tare. Et sicut noster senatus calciamentis utitur cum udonibus, id 
est candido linteamini illustratis, sic utantur et clerici, ut sicut 
celestia, ita et terrena ad laudem Dei decorentur. §. 4. Pre omnibus 
autem licentiam tribuimus ipsi sanctissimo Patri nostro Silvestro 
et successoribus eius ex nostro indicto, ut quem placatus proprio 
consilio clericare voluerit, et in religiosorum numero clericorum 
connumerare, nullus ex omnibus presumat superbe agere. §. 5. 
Decrevimus itaque et hoc, ut ipse et successores eius diademate. 


in the seat of the Blessed Peter even unto the end of the world, 
we by this present do give our imperial Lateran palace, then the 
diadem, that is, the crown of our head, and at the same time the 
tiara and also the shoulder-band, — that is, the strap that usually 
surrounds our imperial neck; and also the purple mantle and 
scarlet tunic, and all the imperial raiment; and also the same rank 
as those presiding over the imperial cavalry, conferring also even 
the imperial scepters, and at the same time all the standards, and 
banners, and the different ornaments, and all the pomp of our 
imperial eminence, and the glory of our power. §.3. We decree 
moreover, as to the most reverend men, the clergy of different 
orders who serve that same holy Roman church, that they have 
that same eminence, distinction, power and excellence, by the 
glory of which it seems proper for our most illustrious senate to 
be adorned; that is, that they be made patricians and consuls, and 
also we have proclaimed that they be decorated with the other 
imperial dignities. And even as the imperial militia is adorned, so 
also we decree that the clergy of the holy Roman church be 
adorned. And even as the imperial power is adorned with differ- 
ent offices, of chamberlains, indeed, and door-keepers, and all 
the guards, so we wish the holy Roman church also to be deco- 
rated. And in order that the pontifical glory may shine forth most 
fully, we decree this also; that the horses of the clergy of this 
same holy Roman church be decorated with saddle-cloths and 
linens, that is, of the whitest color, and that they are to so ride. 
And even as our senate uses shoes with felt socks, that is, dis- 
tinguished by white linen, so the clergy also should use them, so 
that, even as the celestial orders, so also the terrestrial may be 
adorned to the glory of God. §. 4. Above all things, moreover, we 
give permission to that same most holy one our Father Sylvester 
and to his successors, from our edict, that he may make priest 
whomever he wishes, according to his own pleasure and counsel, 
and enroll him in the number of the religious clergy [i.e., regular, 
or monastic, clergy; or, perhaps, the cardinals], let no one whom- 
soever presume to act in a domineering way in this. §. 5. We 
also therefore decreed this, that he himself and his successors 


videlicet corona, quam ex capita nostro illi concessimus, ex auro 
purissimo et gemmis pretiosis uti debeant, et in capite ad laudem 
Dei pro honore B. Petri gestare. Ipse vero beatissimus Papa, quia 
super coronam clericatus, quam gerit ad gloriam B. Petri, omnino 
ipsa ex auro non est passus uti corona, nos frigium candido nitore 
splendidum, resurrectionem dominicam designans, eius sacra- 
tissimo vertici manibus nostris imposuimus, et tenentes frenum 
equi ipsius pro reverentia B. Petri stratoris offitium illi exhibui- 
mus, statuentes eodem frigio omnes eius successores singulariter 
uti in processionibus ad imitationem imperii nostri. §. 6. Unde ut 
pontificalis apex non vilescat, sed magis quam terreni imperii 
dignitas gloria et potentia decoretur, ecce tam palatium nostrum, 
ut predictum est, quam Romanam urbem, et omnes Italiae seu 
occidentalium regionum provincias, loca et civitates prefato bea- 
tissimo Pontifici nostro Silvestro universali Papae contradimus 
atque relinquimus, et ab eo et a successoribus eius per banc 
divalem nostram et pragmaticum constitutum decernimus dis- 
ponenda, atque iuri sanctae Romanae ecclesiae concedimus per- 
mansura. §.7. Unde congruum perspeximus nostrum imperium et 
regni potestatem in orientalibus transferri regionibus, et in Bizan- 
tiae provinciae optimo loco nomini nostro civitatem edificari, et 
nostrum illic constitui imperium, quoniam ubi principatus sacer- 
dotum et Christianae religionis caput ab imperatore celesti consti- 
tutum est, iustum non est, ut illic imperator terrenus habeat 
potestatem. §. 8. Hec vero omnia que per banc nostram imperialem 
sacram, et per alia divalia decreta statuimus atque confirmavi- 
mus, usque in finem mundi illibata et inconcussa permanere 
decernimus. Unde coram Deo vivo, qui nos regnare precepit, et 
coram terribili eius iudicio obtestamur per hoc nostrum imperiale 
constitutum omnes nostros successores imperatores, vel cunctos 
optimates, satrapas etiam, amplissimum senatum, et universum 


might use and bear upon their heads — to the praise of God for 
the honor of the Blessed Peter — the diadem, that is, the crown 
which we have granted him from our own head, of purest gold 
and precious gems. But since he himself, the most blessed Pope, 
did not at all allow that crown of gold to be used over the clerical 
crown which he wears to the glory of the Blessed Peter, we placed 
upon his most holy head, with our own hands, a glittering tiara 
of dazzling white representing the Lord's resurrection, and hold- 
ing the bridle of his horse, out of reverence for the Blessed Peter, 
we performed for him the duty of groom, decreeing that all his 
successors, and they alone, use this same tiara in processions in 
imitation of our power. §. 6. Wherefore, in order that the supreme 
pontificate may not deteriorate, but may rather be adorned with 
glory and power even more than is the dignity of an earthly rule; 
behold, we give over and relinquish to the aforesaid our most 
blessed Pontiff, Sylvester, the universal Pope, as well our palace, 
as has been said, as also the city of Rome, and all the provinces, 
places and cities of Italy and the western regions, and we decree 
by this, our godlike and pragmatic sanction that they are to be 
controlled by him and by his successors, and we grant that they 
shall remain under the law of the holy Roman church. §.7. Where- 
fore we have perceived it to be fitting that our empire and the 
power of our kingdom should be transferred in the regions of the 
East, and that in the province of Byzantia, in the most fitting 
place, a city should be built in our name, and that our empire 
should there be established, for where the supremacy of priests 
and the head of the Christian religion has been established by 
the heavenly Emperor, it is not right that there an earthly 
emperor should have jurisdiction. §. 8. We decree, moreover, that 
all these things, which through this our sacred imperial [charter] 
and through other godlike decrees we have established and con-' 
firmed, remain inviolate and unshaken unto the end of the world.' 
Wherefore, before the living God who commanded us to reign, 
and in the face of his terrible judgment, we entreat, through this 
our imperial sanction, all the emperors our successors, and all the 
nobles, the satraps also, the most glorious senate, and all the 


populum in toto orbe terrarum nunc et in posterum cunctis retro 
temporibus imperio nostro subiacentem, nulli eorum quoquo modo 
licere hec aut infringere, aut in quoquam convellere. Si quis 
autem, quod non credimus, in hoc temerator aut contemptor ex- 
titerit, eternis condempnationibus subiaceat innodatus, et sanctos 
Dei, principes apostolorum Petrum et Paulum sibi in presenti et 
in futura vita sentiat contrarios, atque in inferno inferiori con- 
crematus cum diabolo et omnibus deficiat impiis. Huius vero 
imperialis decreti nostri paginam propriis manibus roborantes, 
super venerandum corpus B. Petri principis apostolorum posuimus. 
Datum Romae 3. Calend. Aprilis, Domino nostro Flavio Con- 
stantino Augusto quater, et Gallicano V. C. Coss."] 


people in the whole world, now and in all times stilP to come 
subject to our rule, that no one of them in any way be allowed 
either to break these [decrees], or in any way overthrow them. 
If any one, moreover, — which we do not believe — prove a scorner 
or despiser in this matter, he shall be subject and bound over to 
eternal damnation, and shall feel the holy ones of God, the chief ' 
of the apostles, Peter and Paul, opposed to him in the present and' 
in the future life, and he shall be burned in the lower hell and 
shall perish with the devil and all the impious. The page, more- 
over, of this our imperial decree, we, confirming it with our own 
hands, did place above the venerable body of the Blessed Peter, 
chief of the apostles. Given at Rome on the third day before the 
Kalends of April, our master the august Flavius Constantine, for 
the fourth time, and Gallicanus, most illustrious men, being 

^ retro was used at Rome in the latter part of the eighth century with the 
peculiar meaning of "still" or "again." This is one of the clues to the date and 
place of the document. Henderson's translation is erroneous. 



P LURES a me libri compluresque emissi sunt in omni fere 
doctrinarum genera. In quibus quod a nonnuUis magnisque 
et longo iam aevo probatis auctoribus dissentio cum sint, 
qui indigne ferant meque ut temerarium sacrilegumque criminen- 
tur, quid tandem nunc facturi quidam putandi sunt? Quantopere 
in me debacchaturi, et si facultas detur, quam avide me ad suppli- 
cium festinanterque rapturi, qui non tantum adversus mortuos 
scribo, sed adversus etiam vivos; nee in unum alterumve, sed in 
plurimos; nee contra privates modo, verum etiam contra magis- 
tratus ! At quos magistratus ! Nempe summum pontificem, qui non 
temporal! solum armatus est gladio, regum ac principum more, sed 
ecclesiastico quoque, ut ab eo neque subter ipsum, ut sic loquar, 
clipeum alicuius principis^ protegere te possis, quominus excom- 
municatione, anathemate, exsecratione^ feriare. Quod si prudenter, 
ut dixit, sic fecisse existimatus est, qui inquit, "Nolo scribere in 
eos qui possunt proscribere," quanto mihi magis idem faciendum 

^ De falso credita et ementita Constantini donatione is the title Valla gave his 
work ; cf . letter to Guarini from Naples in November, 1443 ; Epistolae principum 
(Venice, iS74), P- 356; also Barozzi e Sabbadini, Studii sul Panormita e sul Valla 
(Florence, 1891), p. 93. In L. Valla Opera (Basle, 1543), p. 762, the title runs. 
Contra Donationis, quae Constantini dicitur, privilegia, ut falso creditum 

No title appears with the text of Codex Vaticanus Lat. 53 14. The title in Ulrich 
von Hutten's edition inserts patricii Romani after Vallensis. The treatise is also 
frequently entitled libellus or oratio instead of declamatio. 

2 principum; Cod. Vat. Urb. 337 (containing a few fragments of this treatise). 

3 execratione ; Cod. Vat. Lat. S314, so throughout. 


I HAVE published many books, a great many, in almost every 
branch of learning. Inasmuch as there are those who are 
shocked that in these I disagree with certain great writers 
already approved by long usage, and charge me with rashness and 
sacrilege, what must we suppose some of them will do now ! How 
they will rage against me, and if opportunity is afforded how 
eagerly and how quickly they will drag me to punishment! For I 
am writing against not only the dead, but the living also, not this 
man or that, but a host, not merely private individuals, but the 
authorities. And what authorities! Even the supreme pontiff, 
armed not only with the temporal sword as are kings and princes, 
but with the spiritual also, so that even under the very shield, so 
to speak, of any prince, you cannot protect yourself from him; 
from being struck down by excommunication, anathema, curse. 
So if he was thought to have both spoken and acted prudently 
who said, "I will not write against those who can write 'Pro- 
scribed,' " how much more would it seem that I ought to follow 


esse videatur in eum qui ne proscriptioni quidem relinquat^ locum, 
quique invisibilibus me potestatis suae iaculis persequatur, ut iure 
possim dicere, "Quo ibo a spiritu tuo et quo a tua fugiam facie ! " 
Nisi forte putamus patientius haec esse laturum summum ponti- 
ficem^ quam ceteri^ facerent. Nihil minus, si quidem Paulo, quod 
bona se conscientia conversatum ^sse dicerat, Ananias, princeps 
sacerdotum, coram tribuno qui index sedebat, iussit os verberari;* 
et Phasur, eadem praeditus dignitate, leremiam ob loquendi liber- 
tatem coniecit in carcerem. Sed ilium tribunus ac praeses, hunc 
rex adversus iniuriam pontificis tutari et potuit et voluit. Me vero 
quis tribunus, quis praeses, quis rex e manibus summi sacerdotis, 
si me rapuerit ille, etiam ut velit eripere poterit? 

Verum non est causa cur me duplex hie periculi terror conturbet 
arceatque a proposito. Nam neque contra ius fasque summo pon- 
tifici licet aut ligare quempiam^ aut solvere, et in defendenda 
veritate atque iustitia profundere animam summae virtutis, 
summae laudis, summi praemii est. An vero multi ob terrestrem 
patriam defendendam mortis adiere discrimen? Ego ob caelestem* 
patriam assequendam (assequuntur autem eam qui Deo placent, 
non qui hominibus) mortis discrimine deterrebor? Facessat igitur 
trepidatio; procul abeant metus; timores excidant! Forti animo, 
magna fiducia, bona spe, defendenda est causa veritatis, causa 
iustitiae, causa Dei! 

Neque enim is verus est habendus orator qui bene scit' dicere 
nisi et dicere audeat. Audeamus itaque accusare eum' quicumque 
digna committit accusatione. Et qui in omnes peccat, unius pro 
omnium voce carpatur. At non debeo palam obiurgare fratrem, 
sed inter me et ipsum. Immo, "publice peccans," et qui privatum 
consilium non admitteret, "publice arguendus est, ut ceteri 
timorem habeant." An non Paulus, cuius verbis modo sum usus, in 

^ Cod. Vat. Urb. 337. relinquit; Cod. Vat. Lat. 5314. reliquerit; Hutten. 

2 sacerdotem ; Cod. Vat. Urb. 337, Hutten. 

^^caeteri; Cod. Vat. Lat. S314 (hereafter referred to as MS.), so throughout. 

* obverberari (instead of os verberari) ; Hutten. 

^ quippiam ; Hutten. " coelestem ; MS., so throughout. 

' Hutten. sit ; MS. « Omit eum ; Hutten. 


the same course toward him who goes far beyond proscription, 
who would pursue me with the invisible darts of his authority, so 
that I could rightly say, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or 
whither shall I flee from thy presence?"^ Unless perhaps we think 
the supreme pontiff would bear these attacks more patiently than 
would others. Far from it; for Ananias, the high priest, in the 
presence of the tribune who sat as judge, ordered Paul when he 
said he lived in good conscience to be smitten on the mouth; and 
Pashur, holding the same rank, threw Jeremiah into prison for 
the boldness of his speech. The tribune and the governor, indeed, 
were able and willing to protect the former, and the king the 
latter, from priestly violence. But what tribune, what governor, 
what king, even if he wanted to, could snatch me from the hands 
of the chief priest if he should seize me? 

But there is no reason why this awful, twofold peril should 
trouble me and turn me from my purpose ; for the supreme pontiff 
may not bind nor loose any one contrary to law and justice. And 
to give one's life in defense of truth and justice is the path of the 
highest virtue, the highest honor, the highest reward. Have not 
many undergone the hazard of death for the defense of their 
terrestrial fatherland? In the attainment of the celestial father- 
land (they attain it who please God, not men), shall I be deterred 
by the hazard of death? Away then with trepidation, let fears 
far remove, let doubts pass away. With a brave soul, with utter 
fidelity, with good hope, the cause of truth must be defended, the 
cause of justice, the cause of God. 

Nor is he to be esteemed a true orator who knows how to speak 
well, unless he also has the courage to speak. So let us have the 
courage to accuse him, whoever he is, that commits crimes calling 
for accusation. And let him who sins against all be called to 
account by the voice of one speaking for all. Yet perhaps I ought 
not to reprove my brother in public, but by himself. Rather, 
"Them that sin" and do not accept private admonition "rebuke 
before all, that others also may fear.'" Or did not Paul, whose 

1 Ps. cxxxlx, 7. 2 I Tim. v, 20. 


OS Petrum coram ecclesia reprehendit, quia reprehensibilis erat? 
Et hoc ad nostram doctrinam scriptum reliquit. — ^At non sum 
Paulus, qui Petrum possim reprehendere. Immo Paulus sum, qui 
Paulum imitor. Quemadmodum, quod multo plus est, unus cum 
Deo spiritus efficior, cum studiose mandatis illius obtempero. 
Neque aliquem sua dignitas ab increpationibus tutum reddit quae 
Petrum non reddidit, multosque alios eodem praeditos gradu; ut 
Marcellum quod diis libasset, ut Celestinum quod cum Nestorio 
haeretico^ sentiret, ut quosdam etiam nostra memoria quos ab 
inferioribus (quis enim non est inferior papa?) reprehensos 
scimus, ut taceam condemnatos. 

Neque vero id ago ut quemquam^ cupiam insectari et in eum 
quasi Philippicas scribere, hoc enim a me facinus procul absit, sed 
ut errorem a mentibus hominum convellam, ut eos a vitiis sceleri- 
busque vel admonendo vel increpando summoveam. Non ausim 
dicere ut alii per me edocti luxuriantem nimiis sarmentis papalem 
sedem, quae Christi vinea est, ferro coerceant, et plenas uvas non 
graciles labruscas ferre compellant. Quod cum facio, numquis' 
erit qui aut mihi os aut sibi aures velit occludere, ne dicam suppli- 
cium mortemque proponere? Hunc ego, si hoc faciat, etiam si papa 
sit, quid dicam esse, bonumne pastorem, an aspidem surdam quae 
nolit exaudire vocem incantantis, velit eiusdem membra morsu 
venenoque praestringere? 

Scio iamdudum exspectare* aures hominum quidnam pontifici- 
bus Romanis criminis° impingam. Profecto ingens, sive supinae 
ignorantiae, sive immanis avaritiae quae est idolorum servitus, sive 
imperandi vanitatis cuius crudelitas semper est comes. Nam 
aliquot iam saeculis aut non* intellexerunt donationem Constantini 
commenticiam^ fictamque esse, aut ipsi finxerunt, sive posteriores 
in maiorum suorum dolis vestigia imprimentes pro vera quam 

1 heretico ; MS. ^ quempiam ; Hutten. 

' nunquis; MS., so throughout. ^ expectare; MS., Hutten, so throughout. 

6 quodnam . . . crimen; Hutten. *vero; Hutten. 

^ commentitiam ; MS. 


words I have just used, reprove Peter to his face in the presence 
of the church because he needed reproof? And he left this written 
for our instruction. But perhaps I am not a Paul that I should 
reprove a Peter. Yea, I am a Paul because I imitate Paul. Just as, 
and this is far greater, I become one in spirit with God when I 
diligently observe his commandments. Nor is any one made im- 
mune from chiding by an eminence which did not make Peter 
immune, and many others possessed of the same rank; for in- 
stance, Marcellus,^ who offered a libation to the gods, and Celes- 
tine [I] who entertained the Nestorian heresy, and certain even 
within our own memory whom we know were reproved, to say 
nothing of those condemned, by their inferiors, for who is not 
inferior to the Pope?^ 

It is not my aim to inveigh against any one and write so-called 
Philippics against him — be that villainy far from me — ^but to root 
out error from men's minds, to free them from vices and crimes 
by either admonition or reproof. I would not dare to say [that my 
aim is] that others, taught by me, should prune with steel the 
papal see, which is Christ's vineyard, rank with overabundant 
shoots, iand compel it to bear rich grapes instead of meager 
wildings. When I do that, is there any one who will want to close 
either my mouth or his own ears, much less propose punishment 
and death? If one should do so, even if it were the Pope, what 
should I call him, a good shepherd, or a deaf viper which would 
not choose to heed the voice of the charmer, but to strike his 
limbs with its poisonous bite? 

1 know that for a long time now men's ears are waiting to hear 
the offense with which I charge the Roman pontiffs. It is, indeed, 
an enormous one, due either to supine ignorance, or to gross 
avarice which is the slave of idols, or to pride of empire of which 
cruelty is ever the companion. For during some centuries now, 
either they have not known that the Donation of Constantine is 
spurious and forged, or else they themselves forged it, and their 
successors walking in the same way of deceit as their elders 

^ Valla's error for Marcellinus. The whole story is apocryphal. 

2 A reference to the reforming councils of the fifteenth century. 


falsam cognoscerent defenderunt, dedecorantes pontifiicatus maies- 
tatem, dedecorantes veterum pontificum memoriam, dedecorantes 
religionem Christianam, et omnia caedibus, minis/ iiagitiisque 
miscentes. Suam esse aiunt urbem Romam; suum regnum Siciliae 
Neapolitanumque ; suam universam Italiam, Gallias, Hispanias/ 
Germanos, Britannos; suum denique occidentem; haec enim 
cuncta in ipsa donationis pagina contineri. Ergo haec omnia tua 
sunt, summe pontifex? Omnia tibi in animo est recuperate? Omnes 
reges ac principes occidentis spoliare urbibus, aut cogere ut annua 
tibi tributa pensitent, sententia est? 

At ego contra existimo iustius licere principibus spoliare te im- 
perio omni quod obtines. Nam, ut ostendam, donatio ilia unde 
natum esse suum ius summi pontiiices volunt Silvestro pariter et 
Constantino fuit incognita. 

Verum antequam ad confutandam donationis paginam venio, 
quod unum istorum patrocinium est, non modo falsum verum 
etiam stolidum, ordo postulat ut altius repetam. Et primum dicam 
non tales fuisse Constantinum Silvestrumque, ilium quidem qui 
donare vellet, qui iure donare posset, qui ut in manum alteri ea 
traderet in sua haberet potestate, hunc autem qui vellet accipere, 
quique iure accepturus' foret. Secundo loco, si haec non essent, 
quae verissima atque clarissima sunt, neque hunc acceptasse neque 
ilium tradidisse possessionem rerum quae dicuntur donatae, sed 
eas semper in arbitrio et imperio Caesarum permansisse. Tertio, 
nihil datum Silvestro a Constantino, sed priori pontifici ante quem 
etiam baptismum* acceperat, donaque ilia mediocria fuisse, quibus 

1 minis; Hutten. ^jjyspanias; MS., so throughout. 

^ accaepturus; MS., so throughout. * Pontifici a quo baptismum; Bonneau. 


have defended as true what they knew to be false, dishonoring 
the majesty of the pontificate, dishonoring the memory of ancient 
pontiffs, dishonoring the Christian religion, confounding every- 
thing with murders, disasters and crimes. They say the city of 
Rome is theirs, theirs the kingdom of Sicily and of Naples,^ the 
whole of Italy, the Gauls, the Spains, the Germans, the Britons, 
indeed the whole West; for all tiiese are contained in the instru- 
ment of the Donation itself.^ So all these are yours, supreme 
pontiff? And it is your purpose to recover them all? To despoil 
all kings and princes of the West of their cities or compel them 
to pay you a yearly tribute, is that your plan ? 

I, on the contrary, think it fairer to let the princes despoil you 
of all the empire you hold. For, as I shall show, that Donation 
whence the supreme pontiffs will have their right derived was 
unknown equally to Sylvester and to Constantine. 

But before I come to the refutation of the instrument of the 
Donation, which is their one defense, not only false but even 
stupid, the right order demands that I go further back. And first, 
I shall show that Constantine and Sylvester were not such men 
that the former would choose to give, would have the legal right 
to give, or would have it in his power to give those lands to 
another, or that the latter would be willing to accept them or could 
legally have done so. In the second place, if this were not so, 
though it is absolutely true and obvious, [I shall show that in 
fact] the latter did not receive nor the former give possession of 
what is said to have been granted, but that it always remained 
under the sway and empire of the Caesars. In the third place, [I 
shall show that] nothing was given to Sylvester by Constantine, 
but to an earlier Pope (and Constantine had received baptism 
even before that pontificate), and that the grants were incon- 

^ Valla was in the service of the king of Sicily and of Naples when he wrote this. 

2 The phrase "Italy and the western provinces," in the Donation of Constantine, 
meant to the writer of that document the Italian peninsula, including Lombardy, 
Venetia, Istria, and adjacent islands. Other countries probably did not occur to 
him as part of the Roman Empire. Valla, however, followed the current inter- 



papa degere vitam posset. Quarto, falso did donationis exemplum 
aut apud Decreta reperiri aut ex historia Silvestri esse sumptum, 
quod neque in ilia neque in^ ulla historia invenitur. In eoque 
quaedam contraria, impossibilia, stulta, barbara, ridicula contineri. 
Praeterea loquar de quorundam^ aliorum Caesarum vel simulata 
vel f rivola donatione. Ubi ex abundanti adiciam, si Silvester posse- 
disset, tamen, sive illo sive quovis alio pontifice a possessione de- 
iecto, post tantam temporis intercapedinem nee divino nee humano 
iure posse repeti. Postremo, ea quae a summo pontifiee tenentur 
nullius temporis longitudine potuisse^ praeseribi. 

Atque quod ad primam partem attinet, loquamur autem de Con- 
stantino prius, deinde de Silvestro. 

Non est committendum ut publieam et quasi Caesaream eausam 
non maiore quam privatae solent ore agamus. Itaque quasi in* 
contione° regum ac prineipum orans, ut certe f acio, nam mea haec 
oratio in manus eorum ventura est, libet tamquam praesentes et 
in conspectu positos alloqui. Vos appello reges ac principes, diffi- 
eile est enim privatum hominem animi regii eoneipere imaginem, 
vestram mentem inquiro, eonscientiam scrutor, testimonium pos- 
tulo. Numquid" vestrum quispiam, si fuisset Constantini loco, 
faciendum sibi putasset ut urbem Romam, patriam suam, caput 
orbis terrarum, reginam civitatum, potentissimam, nobilissimam, 
ditissimam populorum, triumphatricem natiommi, et ipso aspectu 
sacram, liberalitatis gratia donaret alteri, et se ad humile oppidum 
conferret deinde Byzantium? donaret praeterea una cum Roma 
Italiam, non provinciam sed provinciarum victricem : donaret tres 
Gallias: donaret duas Hispanias: donaret Germanos: donaret 
Britannos: totum donaret occidentem: et se altero ex duobus' 
Imperii oculis orbaret? Hoc ego, ut quis faciat compos mentis, 
adduci non possum ut credam. 

Quid enim vobis exspectatius, quid iucundius,^ quid gratius con- 

1 Hutten. MS. omits in. ^ qyorumdam; MS., so throughout. 

2 posse ; Hutten. ^ in in ; MS. error. 

^ Hutten. condone; MS., so throughout. 'nunquid; MS., so throughout. 
' Omit duobus ; Hutten. s iocundius ; MS., so throughout. 


siderable, for the mere subsistence of the Pope. Fourth, that it is 
not true either that a copy of the Donation is found in the De- 
cretum [of Gratian], or that it was taken from the History of 
Sylvester; for it is not found in it or in any history, and it is 
comprised of contradictions, impossibilities, stupidities, bar- 
barisms and absurdities. Further, I shall speak of the pretended 
or mock donation of certain other Caesars. Then by way of re- 
dundance I shall add that even had Sylvester taken possession, 
nevertheless, he or some other pontiff having been dispossessed, 
possession could not be resumed after such a long interval under 
either divine or human law. Last [I shall show] that the posses- 
sions which are now held by the supreme pontiff could not, in 
any length of time, be validated by prescription. 

And so to take up the first point, let us speak first of Con- 
stantine, then of Sylvester. 

It would not do to argue a public and quasi imperial case 
without more dignity of utterance than is usual in private cases. 
And so speaking as in an assembly of kings and princes, as I 
assuredly do, for this oration of mine will come into their hands, 
I choose to address an audience, as it were, face to face. I call 
upon you, kings and princes, for it is difficult for a private person 
to form a picture of a royal mind; I seek your thought, I search 
your heart, I ask your testimony. Is there any one of you who, 
had he been in Constantine's place, would have thought that he 
must set about giving to another out of pure generosity the city 
of Rome, his fatherland, the head of the world, the queen of 
states, the most powerful, the noblest and the most opulent of 
peoples, the victor of the nations, whose very form is sacred, and 
betaking himself thence to an humble little town, Byzantium; 
giving with Rome Italy, not a province but the mistress of 
provinces; giving the three Gauls; giving the two Spains; the 
Germans; the Britons; the whole West; depriving himself of one 
of the two eyes of his empire? That any one in possession of his 
senses would do this, I cannot be brought to believe. 

What ordinarily befalls you that is more looked forward to. 


tingere solet, quam accessionem imperils vestris vos regnisque 
adiungere, et longe lateque quam maxime proferre dicionem? In 
hoc, ut videre videor, omnis vestra cura, omnis cogitatio, omnis 
labor dies^ noctesque consumitur. Ex hoc praecipua spes gloriae, 
propter hoc voluptates relinquitis, propter hoc mille pericula 
aditis, propter hoc carissima- pignora, propter hoc partem cor- 
poris aequo animo amittitis. Siquidem neminem vestrum aut audivi 
aut legi a conatu amphandi imperii fuisse deterritum, quod aut 
luminis, aut manus, aut cruris, aut alterius membri iacturam fecis- 
set. Quiri ipse hie ardor atque haec late dominandi cupiditas, ut 
quisque maxime potens est, ita eum maxime angit atque agitat. 
Alexander non contentus deserta Libyae pedibus peragrasse, ori- 
entem ad extremum usque Oceanum vicisse, domuisse septen- 
trionem, inter tot vulnera, tot casus, recusantibus iam, detes- 
tantibus^ tam longinquas, tam asperas expeditiones militibus, 
ipse sibi nihil effecisse videbatur, nisi et occidentem, et omnes na- 
tiones aut vi, aut nominis sui auctoritate sibi tributarias reddi- 
disset. Parum dico: iam Oceanum transire et si quis alius orbis 
esset explorare, ac suo subicere arbitrio destinaverat. In caelum* 
tandem, ut opinor, tentasset ascendere. Talis fere est omnium 
regum voluntas, etsi non omnium talis audacia. Taceo quanta 
scelera, quot abominanda propter imperium assequendum ampli- 
andumve admissa sunt, ut nee fratres a fratrum, nee filii a pa- 
rentum, nee parentes a filiorum sanguine nefarias abstineant 
manus. Adeo nusquam magis, nusquam atrocius grassari solet hu- 
mana temeritas. Et quod mirari possis, non segniores ad hoc videas 
animos senum quam iuvenum, orborum quam parentum, regum 
quam tyrannorum. 

Quod si tanto conatu peti dominatus solet, quanto maiore 
necesse est conservetur! Neque enim tantopere miserum est non 
ampliare imperium quam imminuere; neque tam deforme tibi 
alterius regnum non accedere tuo quam tuum accedere alieno. Nam 

1 diesque ; Hutten. 2 charissima ; MS., so throughout, 

s detestantibusque ; Hutten. ^coelum; MS., so throughout. 


more pleasing, more grateful, than for you to increase your em- 
pires and kingdoms, and to extend your authority as far and 
wide as possible? In this, as it seems to me, all your care, all your 
thought, all your labor, night and day is expended. From this 
comes your chief hope of glory, for this you renounce pleasures; 
for this you subject yourselves to a thousand dangers; for this 
your dearest pledges, for this your own flesh you sacrifice with 
serenity. Indeed, I have neither heard nor read of any of you 
having been deterred from an attempt to extend his empire 
by loss of an eye, a hand, a leg, or any other member. Nay, this 
very ardor and this thirst for wide dominion is such that whoever 
is most powerful, him it thus torments and stirs the most. Alex- 
ander, not content to have traversed on foot the deserts of Libya, 
to have conquered the Orient to the farthest ocean, to have mas- 
tered the North, amid so much bloodshed, so many perils, his 
soldiers already mutinous and crying out against such long, such 
hard campaigns, seemed to himself to have accomplished nothing 
unless either by force or by the power of his name he should 
have made the West also, and all nations, tributary to him. I put 
it too mildly; he had already determined to cross the ocean, and if 
there was any other world, to explore it and subject it to his will. 
He would have tried, I think, last of all to ascend the heavens. 
Some such wish all kings have, even though not all are so bold. 
I pass over the thought how many crimes, how many horrors 
have been committed to attain and extend power, for brothers do 
not restrain their wicked hands from the stain of brothers' blood, 
nor sons from the blood of parents, nor parents from the blood of 
sons. Indeed, nowhere is man's recklessness apt to run riot further 
nor more viciously. And to your astonishment, you see the minds 
of old men no less eager in this than the minds of young men, 
childless men no less eager than parents, kings than usurpers. 

But if domination is usually sought with such great resolution, 

-how much grpater must be the resolution to preserve it! For it is 

by no means so discreditable not to increase an empire as to 

impair it, nor is it so shameful not to annex another's kingdom to 

your own as for your own to be annexed to another's. And when 


quod ab rege aliquo aut populo legimus nonnuUos praepositos 
regno aut urbibus, id factum est non de prima nee de maxima, sed 
de postrema quodammodo ac minima imperii parte, atque ea 
ratione ut donantem qui donatus est quasi dominum et se minis- 
trum illius semper agnosceret. 

Nunc quaeso, nonne abiecto animo et minime generoso videntur 
esse, qui opinantur Constantinimi meliorem a se imperii alienasse 
partem? Non dico Romam, Italiamque et cetera, sed Gallias, ubi 
ipse proelia gesserat, ubi solum diu dominatus fuerat, ubi suae 
gloria suique imperii rudimenta posuerat. Hominem, qui cupiditate 
dominandi nationibus bella intulisset, socios affinesque bello civili 
persecutus imperio privasset; cui nondum perdomitae ac profli- 
gatae reliquiae essent alterius factionis, qui cum multis nationibus 
bella gerere non modo soleret spe gloriae imperiique sed etiam ne- 
cesse haberet, utpote quotidie^ a barbaris lacessitus; qui filiis, qui 
coniunctis sanguine, qui amicitiis^ abundaret; qui senatum popu^ 
lumque Romanum huic facto repugnaturum nosset; qui expertus 
asset instabilitatem victarum nationum, et ad omnem fere Romani 
principis mutationem rebellantium; qui se meminisset more ali- 
orum Caesarum, non electione patrum consensuque plebis, sed 
exercitu, armis, bello dominatum occupasse; quae tam vehemens 
causa et urgens aderat, ut ista negligeret et tanta liberalitate uti 

Aiunt, quia effectus erat Christianus. Ergone Imperii optima 
parte se abdicaret? Credo scelus erat, fiagitium, nefas iam regnare, 
nee cum Christiana religione conivmgi poterat regnum! Qui in 
adulterio sunt, qui usuris rem auxerunt, qui aliena possident, ii^ 
post baptismum alienam uxorem, alienam pecuniam, aliena bona 
reddere solent. Hanc cogitationem si habes, Constantine, restituere 
urbibus libertatem, non mutare dominum debes. Sed non id in 

' quottidie ; MS. ^ amicis; Hutten. 3hi;Hutten. 


we read of men being put in charge of a kingdom or of cities by 
some king or by the people, this is not done in the case of the chief 
or the greatest portion of the empire, but in the case of the last 
and least, as it were, and that with the understanding that the 
recipient should always recognize the donor as his sovereign and 
himself as an agent. 

Now I ask, do they not seem of a base and most ignoble mind 
who suppose that Constantine gave away the better part of his 
empire? I say nothing of Rome, Italy, and the rest, but the Gauls 
where he had waged war in person, where for a long time he had 
been sole master, where he had laid the foundations of his glory 
and his empire! A man who through thirst for dominion had 
waged war against nations, and attacking friends and relatives 
in civil strife had taken the government from them, who had to 
deal with remnants of an opposing faction not yet completely 
mastered and overthrown; who waged war with many nations not 
only by inclination and in the hope of fame and empire but by 
very necessity, for he was harassed every day by the barbarians ; 
who had many sons, relatives and associates; who knew that the 
Senate and the Roman people would oppose this act; who had 
experienced the instability of conquered nations and their rebel- 
lions at nearly every change of ruler at Rome; who remembered 
that after the manner of other Caesars he had come into power, 
not by the choice of the Senate and the consent of the populace, 
but by armed warfare; what incentive could there be so strong 
and urgent that he would ignore all this and choose to display 
such prodigality ? 

They say, it was because he had become a Christian. Would 
he therefore renounce the best part of his empire? I suppose it was 
a crime, an outrage, a felony, to reign after that, and that a 
kingdom was incompatible with the Christian religion ! Those who 
live in adultery, those who have grown rich by usury, those who 
possess goods which belong to another, they after baptism are 
wont to restore the stolen wife, the stolen money, the stolen goods. 
If this be your idea, Constantine, you must restore your cities to 
liberty, not change their master. But that did not enter into the 


causa fuit; tantum in honorem religionis ut faceres adductus es. 
Quasi religiosum sit magis regnum deponere quam pro tutela 
religionis illud administrare ! Nam quod ad accipientes attinet, 
neque honesta erit illis neque utilis ista donatio. Tu vero si Chris- 
tianum te ostendere, si pietatem indicare tuam, si consultum non 
dice Romanae ecclesiae vis sed ecclesiae Dei, nunc praecipue, nunc 
principem agas, ut pugnes pro iis^ qui pugnare non possunt nee 
debent, ut eos tua auctoritate tutos reddas qui insidiis iniuriisque 
obnoxii sunt. Nabuchodonosor, Cyro, Assuero, multisque aliis 
principibus sacramentum veritatis Deus aperiri voluit; a nullo 
tamen eorum exegit ut imperio cederet, ut partem regni donaret, 
sed tantum libertatem Hebraeis^ redderet eosque ab infestantibus 
finitimis protegeret. Hoc satis fuit ludaeis; hoc sat erit et Chris- 
tianis. Factus es, Constantine, Christianus? At indignissima res 
est Christianum te nunc imperatorem minori^ esse principatu 
quam fueras infidelis. Est enim principatus praecipuum quoddam 
Dei munus, ad quem gentiles etiam principes a Deo eligi existi- 

At erat levatus a lepra. Ideo verisimile est referre gratiam 
voluisse, et maiore mensura reddere quod acceperat. Itane? 
Naaman^ ille Syrus ab Heliseo curatus munera tantum offerre 
voluit, non dimidium bonorum. Constantinus dimidium Imperii 
obtulisset ? Piget me impudenti f abellae tamquam indubitatae his- 
toriae respondere, sic enim haec fabula ex historia Naaman et 
Helisei, ut altera^ draconis ex fabuloso dracone Beli adumbrata 

1 his ; Hutten. ^ Hebreis ; MS., so throughout. 

2 minorem; Hutten. * Neeman; MS., so throughout. 
5 altero ; MS. error. 


case; you were led to do as you did solely for the glory of your 
religion. As though it were more religious to lay down a kingdom 
than to administer it for the maintenance of religion! For so far 
as it concerns the recipients, that Donation will be neither hon- 
orable nor useful to them. But if you want to show yourself a 
Christian, to display your piety, to further the cause, I do not 
say of the Roman church, but of the Church of God, now of all 
times act the prince, so that you may fight for those who cannot 
and ought not to fight, so that by your authority you may safe- 
guard those who are exposed to plots and injuries. To Nebuchad- 
nezzar, to Cyrus, to Ahasuerus, and to many other princes, by the 
will of God, the mystery of the truth was revealed; but of none 
of them did God demand that he should resign his government, 
that he should give away part of his kingdom, but only that he 
should give the Hebrews their liberty and protect them from their 
aggressive neighbors. This was enough for the Jews; it will be 
enough for the Christians also. You have become a Christian, 
Constantine? Then it is most unseemly for you now as a Chris- 
tian emperor to have less sovereignty than you had as an infidel. 
For sovereignty is an especial gift of God, to which even the 
gentile sovereigns are supposed to be chosen by God. 

But he was cured of leprosy! Probably, therefore, he would 
have wished to show his gratitude and give back a larger measure 
than he had received. Indeed! Naaman the Syrian, cured by 
Elisha, wished merely to present gifts, not the half of his goods, 
and would Constantine have presented the half of his empire? 
I regret to reply to this shameless story as though it were un- 
doubted and historical, for it is a reflection of the story of Naaman 
and Elisha; just as that other story about the dragon is a reflec- 
tion of the fabulous dragon of Bel.^ But yielding this point, is 

1 In many versions of the Life of Sylvester there is a marvellous story of an 
enormous serpent, finally subdued by the saint. Cf. infra, p. 143 ; Coleman, Con- 
stantine the Great and Christianity, pp. 161 et seq.; Mombritius, Sanctuarium, 
Sive Vitae coUectae ex codibus (Milan, c. 1479), v, ii, pp. 279 et seq., also Paris 
edition, 1910. For the story of Bel and the Dragon, cf. the book of that name in 
the Apocrypha. 


est. Sed, ut ista concedam, numquid in hac historia de donatione 
fit mentio? Minime. Verum de hoc commodius postea.^ 

Levatus est a lepra? Cepit^ ob id mentem Christianam Dei 
timore Dei amore imbutus ; illi honorem habere voluit. Non tamen 
persuaderi possum eum tanta donare voluisse, quippe cum videam 
neminem, aut gentilem in honorem deorum, aut fidelem in honorem 
Dei viventis, imperium deposuisse sacerdotibusque donasse. 
Siquidem ex regibus Israel nemo adduci potuit ut pristine more 
ad templum lerusalem populos sacrificaturos ire permitteret, eo 
videlicet timore ne forte ad regem ludae a quo defecerant redirent, 
sacro illo cultu religionis admoniti ac templi maiestate. Et quanto 
maius est hoc quod f ecisse dicitur Constantinus ! Ac ne quid tibi 
propter curationem leprae blandiaris, leroboam primus a Deo in 
regem Israel electus est, et quidem ex infima condicione, quod mea 
sententia plus est quam esse lepra levatum;^ et tamen is non est 
ausus regnum suum Deo credere. Et tu vis Constantinum regnum 
Deo donasse quod ab illo non accepisset, qui praesertim (id quod 
in leroboam non cadebat) offenderet filios, deprimeret amicos, neg- 
ligeret suos, laederet patriam, maerore omnes afficeret, suique 
oblivisceretur ! 

Qui si etiam talis fuisset, et quasi in alium hominem versus, 
certe non defuissent qui eum admonerent, et imprimis filii, pro- 
pinqui amid; quos quis est qui non putet protinus Imperatorem 
fuisse adituros? Ponite igitur illos ante oculos, mente Constantini 
audita, trepidos, festinantes cum gemitu lacrimisque* ad genua 
principis procumbentes, et hoc voce utentes : 

"Itane, pater antehac filiorum amantissime, filios privas, exhere- 
das,^ abdicas! Nam quod te optima maximaque Imperii parte 
exuere vis, non tam querimur quam miramur. Querimur autem 

1 Insert loquar; Bonneau. ^ coepit; MS. 

3 lavatum ; Hutten. * lachrimisque ; MS., so throughout. 

^ exhaeredas ; MS. 


there in this story any mention made of a "donation"? Not at all. 
But of this, more later. 

He was cured of leprosy? He took on therefore a Christian 
spirit; he was imbued with the fear of God, with the love of God; 
he wished to honor him. Nevertheless I cannot be persuaded that 
he wished to give away so much; for, so far as I see, no one, 
either pagan, in honor of the gods, or believer, in honor of the 
living God, has resigned his empire and given it to priests. In 
sooth, of the kings of Israel none could be brought to permit his 
people to go, according to the former custom, to sacrifice at the 
temple in Jerusalem; for fear lest, moved by that solemn religious 
ceremony and by the majesty of the temple, they should return 
to the king of Judah from whom they had revolted. And how 
much more is Constantine represented to have done! And that 
you may not flatter yourself with the cure of leprosy, [let me 
say that] Jeroboam was the first one chosen by God to be king 
of Israel and indeed from a very low estate, which to my mind is 
more than being healed of leprosy; nevertheless he did not pre- 
sume to entrust his kingdom to God. And will you have Constan- 
tine give to God a kingdom which he had not received from him, * 
and that, too, when he would offend his sons (which was not the 
case with Jeroboam), humiliate his friends, ignore his relatives, 
injure his country, plunge everybody into grief, and forget his 
own interests ! 

But if, having been such a man as he was, he had been trans- 
formed as it were into another man, there would certainly not 
have been lacking those who would warn him, most of all his 
sons, his relatives, and his friends. Who does not think that they 
would have gone at once to the emperor? Picture them to your- 
self, when the purpose of Constantine had become known, 
trembling, hastening to fall with groans and tears at the feet of 
the prince, and saying: 

"Is it thus that you, a father hitherto most affectionate toward 
your sons, despoil your sons, disinherit them, disown them? We 
do not complain of the fact that you choose to divest yourself of 
the best and largest part of the empire so much as we wonder at 


quod earn ad alios defers, cum nostra et iactura et turpitudine. 
Quid enim causae est quod liberos tuos exspectata successione 
Imperii fraudas, qui ipse una cum patre regnasti? Quid in te com- 
misimus? Qua in te, qua in patriam, qua in nomen Romanum ac 
maiestatem Imperii impietate digni videmur quos praecipua op- 
timaque prives principatus portione, qui a patriis laribus, a con- 
spectu natalis soli, ab assueta aura, a vetusta consuetudine relege- 
mur!^ Penates, fana,^ sepulchra exules relinquemus, nescio ubi 
aut qua terrarum regione victuri! 

"Quid nos propinqui, quid nos amici, qui tecum totiens in acie 
stetimus, qui fratres, parentes, filios hostili mucrone confossos pal- 
pitantesque conspeximus, nee aliena morte territi sumus, et ipsi 
pro te parati mortem oppetere, nunc abs te universi deserimurP 
Qui Romae gerimus magistratus, qui urbibus Italiae, qui Galliis, 
qui Hispaniis, qui ceteris provinciis* praesumus, aut praefuturi 
sumus,^ omnesne revocamur! Omnes privati iubemur esse! An 
iacturam banc aliunde pensabis? Et quomodo pro merito ac pro 
dignitate poteris, tanta orbis terrarum parte alteri tradita? Num 
qui praeerat centum populis, eum tu, Caesar, uni praeficies? 
Quomodo tibi istud in mentem venire potuit? Quomodo subita 
tuorum te cepit oblivio, ut nihil te misereat amicorum, nihil proxi- 
morum, nihil filiorum? Utinam nos, Caesar, salva tua dignitate 
atque victoria, in bello contigisset occumbere potius quam ista 
cernamus ! 

"Et tu quidem de imperio tuo ad tuum arbitratum agere potes, 
atque etiam de nobis, uno dumtaxat excepto, in quo° ad mortem 
usque erimus contumaces; ne a cultu deorum immotalium desista- 
mus — magno etiam aliis exemplo, ut scias tua ista largitas quid 
mereatur de religione Christiana. Nam si non largiris Silvestro 
Imperium, tecum Christiani esse volumus, multis factum nostrum 
imitaturis : sin largiris, non modo Christiani fieri non sustinebimus, 

^ relegamur ; MS. ^phanajMS. 

2 destituimur ; Hutten. *provintiis; MS. 

^praefuturi fuimus; Hutten. praefecturi sumus; Bonneau. praefecturi fuimus; 
Schard. " Insert vel ; Hutten. 


it. But we do complain that you give it to others to our loss and 
shame. Why do you defraud your children of their expected suc- 
cession to the empire, you who yourself reigned in partnership 
with your father? What have we done to you? By what dis- 
loyalty to you, to our country, to the Roman name or the majesty 
of the empire, are we deemed to deserve to be deprived of the 
chief est and best part of our principality; that we should be 
banished from our paternal home, from the sight of our native 
land, from the air we are used to, from our ancient ties! Shall 
we leave our household gods, our shrines, our tombs, exiles, to 
live we know not where, nor in what part of the earth? 

"And we, your kindred, your friends, who have stood so often 
with you in line of battle, who have seen brothers, fathers, sons, 
pierced and writhing under hostile sword, and have not been dis- 
mayed at the death of others, but were ourselves ready to seek 
death for your sake, why are we now deserted one and all by 
you! We who hold the public offices of Rome, who govern or are 
destined to govern the cities of Italy, the Gauls, the Spains, and 
the other provinces, are all of us to be deposed ? Are all of us to 
be ordered into private life? Or will you compensate us elsewhere 
for this loss? And how can you, when such a large part of the 
world has been given to another? Will your majesty put the man 
who had charge of a hundred peoples over one? How could you 
have conceived such a plan? How is it that you have suddenly 
become oblivious of your subjects, so that you have no considera- 
tion for your friends, nor your kindred, nor your sons? Would 
that it had been our lot, your Majesty, while your honor and your 
victory were unimpaired, to fall in battle, rather than to see this ! 

"You have the power, indeed, to do with your empire what you 
will, and even with us, one thing however excepted, which we 
will resist to the death; we will not give up the worship of the 
immortal gods, — just for the sake of a conspicuous example to 
dthers, that you may know how much that bounty of yours will 
be worth to the Christian religion. For if you do not give your 
empire to Sylvester, we are willing to be Christians with you, and 
many will imitate us. But if you do give it, not only will we not 


sed invisum, detestabile, exsecrandum nobis hoc nomen efficies, 
talesque reddes ut tandem tu et vitae et mortis nostrae miserearis, 
nee nos sed te ipsum duritiae accuses." 

Nonne hac oratione Constantinus, nisi exstirpatam^ ab eo volu- 
mus humanitatem, si sua sponte non movebatur, motus fuisset? 
Quid si hos audire noluisset, nonne erant qui huic facto et oratione 
adversarentur et manu? An senatus populusque Romanus sibi 
tanta in re nihil agendum putasset? Nonne oratorem, ut ait Virgil- 
ius, gravem pietate ac meritis advocasset, qui apud Constantinum 
banc haberet orationem? 

"Caesar, si tu tuorum immemor es atque etiam tui, ut nee filiis 
hereditatem, nee propinquis opes, nee amieis honores, nee tibi 
Imperium esse integrum velis, non tamen senatus populusque 
Romanus immemor potest esse sui iuris suaeque dignitatis. 
Etenim quomodo tibi tantum permittis de Imperio Romano quod 
non tuo sed nostro sanguine paratum^ est! Tune unum corpus in 
duas seeabis partes, et ex uno duo efficies regna, duo capita, duas 
voluntates; et quasi duobus fratribus gladios quibus^ de heredi- 
tate decernant porriges! Nos civitatibus quae de hac urbe bene 
meritae sunt iura civitatis damns, ut cives Romani sint: tu a nobis 
dimidium Imperii aufers, ne banc urbem parentem suam agnos- 
cant! Et in alveis quidem apium si duo reges nati simt, alterum 
qui deterior est oeeidimus: tu in alveo Imperii Romani, ubi unus 
et optimus princeps est,* alterum et hune deterrimum, et non 
apem sed fucum, coUoeandum putas! Prudentiam tuam vehe- 
menter desideramus, Imperator. Nam quid futurum est, si vel te 
vivo, vel post tuam mortem, aut huie parti quam alienas, aut alteri 
quam tibi relinquis, bellum a barbaris nationibus inferatur? Quo 

1 extirpatam; MS., so throughout. ^ partum; Hutten. 

'quijHutten. *es; Hutten. 


endure to become Christians, but you will make the name hateful, 
detestable, execrable to us, and you will put us in such a position 
that at last you will pity our life and our death, nor will you 
accuse us, but only yourself, of obstinacy." 

Would not Constantine, unless we would have him totally 
devoid of humanity, if he were not moved of his own accord, 
have been moved by this speech? But if he had not been willing 
to listen to these men, would there not have been those who would 
oppose this act with both word and deed? Or would the Senate 
and the Roman people have thought that they had no obligation 
to do anything in a matter of such importance? Would it not have 
put forward some orator "distinguished in character and service," 
as Virgil says, who would hold forth to Constantine as follows: 

"Your Majesty, if you are heedless of your subjects and of 
yourself, nor care to give your sons an inheritance, nor your 
kindred riches, nor your friends honors, nor to keep your empire 
intact, the Senate and the Roman people at least caimot be heed- 
less of its rights and its dignity. How come you to take such liber- 
ties with the Roman Empire, which has been built up, not from 
your blood, but from ours ! Will you cut one body into two parts, 
and out of one kingdom make two kingdoms, two heads, two wills, 
and, as it were, reach out to two brothers swords with which to 
fight over their inheritance! We give to states which have de- 
served well of this city the rights of citizenship, so that they may 
be Roman citizens; you take away from us the half of the empire, 
so that they will not know this city as their mother. In beehives, if 
two kings are born, we kill the weaker one; but in the hive of the 
Roman Empire, where there is one prince, and that the best, you 
think that another must be introduced, and that the weakest one, 
not a bee, but a drone.^ 

"We see a sore lack of prudence on your part, your Majesty. 
For what will happen, if either during your life or after your 
death, war should be waged by barbarian tribes against the part 
of the empire which you are alienating, or against the other, 

1 1 have made two English paragraphs of the rather long Latin one. [Ed.] 


robore militum, quibus copiis occurremus? Vix nunc totius Imperii 
viribus possumus; tunc poterimus? An perpetuo membrum hoc 
cum illo in Concordia erit? Ut reor, nee esse poterit, cum Roma 
dominari velit, nolit pars ilia servire. Quin et te vivo breve intra 
tempus, revocatis veteribus praesidibus,^ suffectis novis, te in 
tuum regnum profecto et longe agente, hie altero dominante, 
nonne omnia nova, id est diversa atque adversa, erunt? Regno 
fere inter duos fratres diviso, protinus et populorum animi divi- 
duntur, et prius a se ipsis quam ab externis hostibus bellum auspi- 
cantur. Idem eventurum in hoc Imperio quis non videt? An 
ignoras hanc olim imprimis fuisse causam optimatibus, cur 
dicerent citius se in conspectu populi Romani esse morituros quam 
rogationem illam ferri sinerent ut pars senatus ac pars plebis ad 
incolendum Veios mitteretur, duasque urbes communes^ populi 
Romani esse; si enim in una urbe tantum dissensionum esset, quid 
in duabus urbibus futurum! Ita hoc tempore, si tantum discor- 
diarum in uno Imperio, testor conscientiam tuam ac labores, quid 
in duobus imperils fiet! 

"Age vero, putasne hinc fore qui tibi bellis occupato esse auxilio 
aut velint aut sciant? Ita ab armis atque ab omni re bellica 
abhorrentes erunt qui praeficientur militibus atque urbibus, ut ille 
qui praeficit. Quid, nonne hunc tam imperitum regnandi et 
iniuriae facilem aut Romanae legiones aut ipsae provinciae^ 
spoliare tentabunt, ut quern sperabunt vel non repugnaturum, vel 
poenas non repetiturum? Credo, me hercule, ne unum quidem 
mensem illos in of&cio mansuros, sed statim et ad primum pro- 
fectionis tuae nuntium"* rebellaturos. Quid fades? Quid consilii 
capies, cum duplici atque adeo multiplici bello urgebere ? Nationes 
quas subegimus continere vix possumus; quomodo illis accedente 
ex liberis gentibus bello resistetur? 

1 praesidiis ; Hutten. ^ comunes ; MS., so throughout, 
^provintiae; MS. * initium ; Hutten. 


which you leave for yourself? With what military force, with 
what resources can we go to meet them? Even now with the 
troops of the whole empire we have scarcely enough power; shall 
we have enough then? Or will this part be forever at peace with 
that? In my opinion it cannot be, for Rome will want to rule and 
the other part will not want to be subject. Nay, even in your life- 
time, shortly, when the old officials are removed and new ones 
put in their places, when you withdraw to your kingdom and 
fare far forth and another is ruling here, will not all interests be 
different, that is, diverse and contrary? Usually when a kingdom 
is divided between two brothers, at once the hearts of the people 
also are divided, and war arises from within sooner than from 
foreign enemies. That that will happen in this empire, who does 
not see it? Or do you not know that it was chiefly on this ground 
that the patricians once said that they would rather die before 
the eyes of the Roman people than allow the motion to be carried 
that part of the Senate and part of the plebeians should be sent 
to live at Veil and that the Roman people should have two cities 
in common; for if in one city there were so many dissensions, 
how would it be in two cities? So in our time, if there are so 
many disorders in one empire, your own knowledge and your 
labors are a witness, how will it be in two empires! 

"Come now, do you think that when you are engaged in wars, 
there will be men here willing or able to bear you aid? Those 
who will be in command of our soldiers and cities will always 
shrink from arms and warfare, as will he who appoints them. 
Indeed, will not either the Roman legions or the provinces them- 
selves try to despoil this man, so inexperienced in ruling and so 
inviting to violence, hoping that he will neither fight back nor 
seek revenge? By Hercules! I believe they will not remain in 
allegiance a single month, but immediately, at the first news of 
your departure they will rebel. What will you do ? What plan will 
you follow when you are pressed with a twofold and even a mani- 
fold war? The nations which we have conquered we can scarcely 
hold; how can we withstand them if in addition we have war with 
free peoples? 


"Tu, Caesar, quid ad te spectet ipse videris. Nobis autem haec 
res non minus quam tibi curae esse debet. Tu mortalis es: Im- 
perium populi Romani decet esse immortale, et quantum in nobis 
est erit, neque Imperium mode, verum etiam pudor. Scilicet 
quorum religionem contemnimus eorum accipiemus imperium, et, 
principes orbis terrarum, huic contemptissimo homini serviemus! 
Urbe a Gallis capta, Romani senes demulceri sibi barbam a vic- 
toribus passi non sunt: nunc sibi tot senatorii ordinis, tot prae- 
torii, tot tribunicii,^ tot consulares, triumphalesque viri eos domi- 
nari patientur, quos ipsi tamquam^ servos malos omni con- 
tumeliarum genere suppliciorumque affecerunt! Istine homines 
magistratus creabunt, provincias regent, bella gerent, de nobis 
sententias capitis ferent? Sub his nobilitas Romana stipendia 
faciet, honores sperabit, munera assequetur? Et quod maius 
quodque altius penetret vulnus accipere possumus? Non ita 
putes, Caesar, Romanum degenerasse sanguinem ut istud pas- 
surus sit aequo animo et non quavis ratione devitandum exis- 
timet: quod medius fidius neque muheres nostrae^ sustinerent, sed 
magis se una cum dulcibus Uberis sacrisque penatibus concre- 
marent, ut non Carthaginienses* feminae^ fortiores fuerint quam 

"Etenim, Caesar, si regem te delegissemus, haberes tu quidem 
magnum de Imperio Romano agendi arbitriimi, sed non ita ut vel 
minimum de ipsius imminueres maiestate, alioquin qui te fecisse- 
mus regem, eadem facultate abdicare te regno iuberemus — nedum 
posses regnum dividere, nedum tot provincias* alienare, nedum 
ipsum regni caput peregrino atque humillimo homini addicere. 
Canem ovili praeficimus;' quem si lupi mavult officio fungi, aut 
eicimus aut occidimus. Nunc tu, cum diu canis officio in ovili 
Romano defendendo sis functus, ad extremum in lupum nullo 
exemplo converteris? 

"Atque, ut intelligas, quandoquidem nos pro iure nostro cogis* 
asperius loqui, nullum tibi in populi Romani Imperio ius esse. 

1 tribunitii; MS. 2 tanquam; MS., so throughout. 

3 Omit nostrae ; Hutten. * Carthaginenses ; MS. 

5 foeminae; MS. ^ provintias; MS. 

' Bonneau. praefecimus; MS., Hutten. * coges ; Hutten. 


"As for your interests, your Majesty, that is for you to see to. 
But this ought to concern us no less than you. You are mortal; 
the Empire of the Roman people ought to be immortal, and so 
far as in us lies, it will be, and not the Empire alone but respect 
for it as well. Shall we, forsooth, accept the government of those 
whose religion we despise; shall we, rulers of the world, serve 
this altogether contemptible being! When the city was captured 
by the Gauls the aged Romans did not suffer their beards to be 
stroked by the victors. Will all these men of senatorial, prae- 
torian, tribunician, consular and triumphal rank now suffer those 
to rule them, upon whom as upon guilty slaves they themselves 
have heaped every kind of contumely and punishment ! Will those 
men create magistrates, govern provinces, wage war, pass sen- 
tences of death upon us? Will the Roman nobility take wages 
under them, hope for honors and receive rewards at their hands? 
What greater, what deeper wound can we receive? Do not think, 
your Majesty, that the Roman blood has so degenerated as to 
endure this with equanimity and not deem it a thing to be avoided 
by fair means or foul. By my faith, not even our women would 
suffer it, but they would rather burn themselves with their dear 
children and their household gods, for Carthaginian women should 
not be braver than Roman. 

"To be sure, your Majesty, if we had chosen you king, you 
would have a great measure of control over the Roman Empire 
indeed, yet not such that you could An the least diminish its 
greatness, for then we who should have made you king, by that 
same token would order you to abdicate your kingdom. How 
much less then could you divide the kingdom, alienate so many 
provinces, and deliver even the capital of the kingdom over to 
a man who is a stranger and altogether base. We put a watch-dog 
over the sheepfold, but if he tries rather to act like a wolf, we 
either drive him out or kill him. Now will you, who have long been 
the watch-dog of the Roman fold and defended it, at the last in 
unprecedented manner turn into a wolf? 

"But you must know, since you compel us to speak harshly in 
defense of our rights, that you have no right over the Empire of 


Caesar vi dominatum occupavit,^ Augustus et in vitium successit 
et adversariorum partium profligatione se dominum fecit, Tiberius, 
Gaius, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasianus, ceteri- 
que aut eadem aut simili via libertatem nostram praedati sunt, tu 
quoque, aliis expulsis aut interemptis, dominus effectus es. Sileo 
quod ex matrimonio natus non sis. 

"Quare, ut tibi nostram mentem testificemur, Caesar, si non 
libet te^ Romae principatum tenere, habes filios, quorum aliquem 
in locum tuum, nobis quoque permittentibus ac rogantibus, 
naturae lege substituas. Sin minus, nobis in animo est publicam 
amplitudinem cum privata dignitate defendere. Neque enim minor 
haec iniuria Quiritum quam olim fuit violata Lucretia, neque nobis 
deerit Brutus qui contra Tarquinium' se ad libertatem recuper- 
andam huic populo praebeat ducem. Et in istos primum quos nobis 
praeponis, deinde et in te ferrum stringemus, quod in multos Im- 
peratores et quidem leviores ob causas fecimus." 

Haec profecto Constantinum, nisi lapidem eum aut truncum 
existimamus, permovissent. Quae si populus non dixisset, tamen 
dicere apud se et his passim verbis f remere credibile erat. Eamus 
nunc et dicamus Constantinum gratificari voluisse Silvestro, quem 
tot hominum odiis, tot gladiis subiceret ut vix, quantum sentio, 
unum Silvester diem in vita futurus fuisset. Nam eo paucisque 
aliis absumptis, videbatur* omnis sublatum iri de pectoribus 
Romanorum tam dirae iniuriae contumeliaeque suspicio." 

Age porro, si fieri potest, concedamus neque preces, neque 
minas, neque uUam rationem aliquid profecisse, perstareque adhuc 
Constantinum, nee velle a suscepta semel persuasione recedere.* 
Quis non ad Silvestri orationem, si res vera fuisset umquam,^ 
commotum' Essentia tur? Quae talis baud dubie fuisset: 

1 Insert occupavit; Hutten. Insert occupanti; Bonneau. 

2 tibi ; Hutten. ^ Tarquinum ; MS. * videtur ; Hutten. 

5 suspitio; MS. " discedere; Hutten. ^ unquam; MS., so throughout. 

8 Apparently se was omitted, or it has dropped out of the text. 


the Roman people, for Caesar seized the supreme power by force; 
Augustus was the heir of his wrongdoing and made himself 
master by the ruin of the opposing factions; Tiberius, Gains, 
Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, and the rest, 
in the same way or nearly so, made spoil of our liberty; and you 
also became ruler by expelling or killing others. I say nothing of 
your being born out of wedlock. 

"Wherefore, to speak our mind, your Majesty; if you do not 
care to keep the government of Rome, you have sons, and by the 
law of nature, with our permission, also, and on our motion, you 
may substitute one of them in your place. If not, it is our purpose 
to defend the public honor and our personal dignity. For this is 
no less an act of violence against the Quirites than was once the 
rape of Lucretia, nor will there fail us a Brutus to offer himself 
to this people as a leader against Tarquinius for the recovery of 
liberty. We will draw our swords first upon those whom you are 
putting over us, and then upon you, as we have done against many 
emperors, and for lighter reasons." 

This would surely have prevailed on Constantine, unless we 
deem him made of stone or wood. And if the people would not 
have said this, it could be believed that they spoke among them- 
selves and vented their rage in about these words. Let me go on a 
step and say that Constantine wished to benefit Sylvester, the 
one whom he would subject to the hatred and the swords of so 
many men that he, Sylvester, would scarcely have survived, I 
think, a single day. For it seemed that when he and a few others 
had been removed all trace of such a cruel outrage and insult 
would have been obliterated from the breasts of the Romans. 

Let us suppose, however, if possible, that neither prayers, nor 
threats, nor any argument availed aught, and that still Con- 
stantine persisted and was not willing to yield through persua- 
sion the position he had taken. Who would not acknowledge him- 
self moved by the speech of Sylvester, that is, if the event had 
ever actually occurred? It would doubtless have been something 
like this: 


"Princeps optime ac fili, Caesar, pietatem quidem tuam tam 
pronam tamque effusam non possum non amare atque amplecti, 
verumtamen quod in offerendis Deo muneribus immolandisque 
victimis nonnihil erres, minime demiror; quippe qui adhuc es in 
Christiana militia tiro. Ut non decebat olim a sacerdote omnem 
pecudem feramque et avem^ sacrificari, ita non omne ab eodem 
accipiendum est munus. Ego sacerdos sum ac pontifex, qui dis- 
picere debeo quid ad altare patiar offerri, ne forte, non dico 
immundum animal offeratur, sed vipera aut serpens. Itaque sic 
habeas. Si foret tui iuris, partem Imperii cum regina orbis, Roma, 
alteri tradere quam filiis (quod minime sentio) ; si populus hie, si 
Italia, si ceterae nationes sustinerent, ut quos oderunt et quorum 
religionem adhuc respuunt, capti illecebris saeculi, eorum imperio 
obnoxii esse vellent (quod impossibile est) : tamen, si quid mihi 
credendum putas, fili amantissime, ut tibi assentirer^ ulla adduci 
ratione non possem," nisi vellem mihi ipsi esse dissimilis et con- 
diconem meam oblivisci ac propemodum dominum lesum* ab- 
negare. Tua enim munera, sive, ut tu vis, tuae remunerationes et 
gloriam et innocentiam et sanctimoniam meam atque omnium qui 
mihi successuri sunt polluerent ac prorsus everterent, viamque iis 
qui ad cognitionem veritatis venturi sunt intercluderent. 

"An vero Heliseus,'* Naaman Syro a lepra curato, mercedem 
accipere noluit: ego te curato accipiam? Ille munera respuit; ego 
regna mihi dari sinam? Ille personam prophetae maculare noluit; 
ego personam Chris ti quam in me gero maculare potero? Cur 
autem ille accipiendis muneribus personam prophetae maculari 
putavit? Nempe quod videri poterat vendere sacra, faenerare 
donum Dei, indigere praesidiis hominum, elevare atque imminuere 
beneficii dignitatem. Maluit ergo sibi principes ac reges* benefici- 
arios facere, quam ipse beneficiarius illorum esse; immo ne mutua 
quidem beneficentia uti. 'Beatius est enim multo,' ut inquit Domi- 

lovem; Hutten, Bonneau. ^agjentiar; Hutten. 

3 possum ; Hutten. * Ihesum ; MS., so throughout. 

'^ Insert a ; Hutten. ^ Omit reges ; MS., an error. 


"Most worthy prince and son, Caesar, though I cannot but 
like and embrace your piety, so abject and effusive, nevertheless 
you have fallen somewhat into error in offering gifts to God and 
immolating victims, and I am not at all surprised at it, for you are 
still a novice in the Christian service. As once it was not right 
for the priest to sacrifice every sort of beast and animal and fowl, 
so now he is not to accept every sort of gift. I am a priest and 
pontiff, and I ought to look carefully at what I permit to be 
offered on the altar, lest perchance there be offered, I do not say 
an unclean animal, but a viper or a serpent. And this is what you 
would do. But if it were your right to give a part of the Empire 
including Rome, queen of the world, to another than your sons, 
a thing I do not at all approve; if this people, if Italy, if the other 
nations, should suffer themselves to be willing to submit to the 
government of those whom they hate and whose religion, snared 
by the enticements of this world, they have hitherto spit upon, — 
an impossible supposition; if you nevertheless think I am to be 
given anything, my most loving son, I could not by any argument 
be brought to give you my assent, unless I were to be false to 
myself, to forget my station, and well-nigh deny my Lord Jesus. 
For your gifts, or if you wish, your payments, would tarnish and 
utterly ruin my honor and purity and holiness and that of all my ■< 
successors, and would close the way to those who are about to 
come to the knowledge of the truth. 

"Elisha was not willing, was he, to accept a reward when 
Naaman the Syrian was cured of the leprosy? Should I accept one 
when you are cured? He rejected presents; should I allow king- 
doms to be given to me? He was unwilling to obscure the pro- 
phetic office; could I obscure the office of Christ, which I bear in 
me? But why did he think that the prophetic office would be 
obscured by his receiving gifts? Doubtless because he might seem 
to sell sacred things, to put the gift of God out at usury, to want 
the patronage of men, to lower and lessen the worth of his bene- 
faction. He preferred, therefore, to make princes and kings his 
beneficiaries rather than to be himself their beneficiary, or even 
to allow mutual benefactions. For, as says the Lord, 'It is more 


nus, 'dare quam accipere.' Eadem mihi atque adeo maior est 
causa, cui etiam a Domino praecipitur dicente, 'Infirmos curate, 
mortuos suscitate, leprosos mundate, daemones eicite; gratis 
accepistis, gratis date.' Egone tantum flagitium admittam, Caesar, 
ut Dei praecepta^ non exsequar; ut gloriam meam polluam? 
'Melius est,' ut inquit Paulus, 'mihi mori quam ut gloriam meam 
quis evacuet.' Gloria nostra est apud Deum honorificare minis- 
terium nostrum, ut idem inquit, 'Vobis dico gentibus; quamdiu 
ego quidem sum gentium apostolus, glorificabo ministerium 

"Ego, Caesar, aliis quoque sim et exemplum et causa delin- 
quendi; Christianus homo, sacerdos Dei, pontifex Romanus, vica- 
rius Christi ? lam vero innocentia sacerdotum quomodo incolumis 
erit inter opes, inter magistratus, inter administrationem saecu- 
larium negotiorum?^ Ideone terrenis renuntiamus, ut eadem 
uberiora assequamur ; et privata abiecimus, ut aliena possideamus 
et publica? Nostrae erunt urbes? nostra tributa? nostra vecti- 
galia? Et cur clericos, si hoc^ fecerimus, nos vocari licebit? Pars 
nostra sive sors, quae Graece dicitur /cX.'^pos/ est non terrena sed 
caelestis. Levitae, qui iidem^ clerici sunt, partem cum fratribus 
non fuere sortiti: et tu nos iubes etiam fratrum sortiri portionem! 

"Quo mihi divitas atque opes, qui Domini voce iubeor nee de 
crastino esse sollicitus, et cui dictum est ab illo: 'Nolite thesauri- 
zare super terram; nolite possidere aurum, neque argentum, neque 
pecuniam in zonis vestris'; et, 'Difficilius est divitem introire in 
regnum caelonmi, quam camelum per foramen acus transire?' 
Ideoque pauperes sibi ministros elegit et qui omnia relinquerent^ 
et eum sequerentur ; et paupertatis ipse fuit exemplum. Usque adeo 
divitiarum pecuniarumque tractatio innocentiae inimica est, non 
modo possessio illarum atque dominatus. Unus ludas, qui loculos 

ipraecaepta; MS., so throughout. ^negociorum; MS., so throughout. 

^haec; Hutten. 

* Blank space for the Greek word, followed apparently by its transcription, 
clerus; MS. Hutten reads dominatus for clerus, and terrenus for terrena in the 
following line. Bonneau has divina after the Greek word. 

''idem; Hutten. ^ reliquerunt ; MS. 


blessed to give than to receive.'^ I am in the same case, only more 
so, whom the Lord taught, saying, 'Heal the sick, cleanse the 
lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, 
freely give.'^ Shall I commit such a disgrace, your Majesty, as 
not to follow the precepts of God; as to tarnish my glory? 'It 
were better,' says Paul, 'for me to die than that any man should 
make my glorying void."' Our glory is to honor our ministry in 
the sight of God, as Paul also said; 'I speak to you Gentiles, 
inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine 

"Your Majesty, should even I be both an example and a cause 
for the apostasy of others, I, a Christian, a priest of God, pontiff 
of Rome, vicar of Christ! For how, indeed, will the blamelessness 
of priests remain untouched amid riches, magistracies, and the 
management of secular business? Do we renounce earthly pos- 
sessions in order to attain them more richly, and have we given 
up our own property in order to possess another's and the 
public's? Shall we have cities, tributes, tolls? How then can you 
call us 'clergy' if we do this? Our portion, or our lot, which in 
Greek is called kleros, is not earthly, but celestial. The Levites, 
also clergy, were not allotted a portion with their brethren, and 
do you command us to take even our brothers' portion! 

"What are riches and dominions to me who am commanded by 
the voice of the Lord not to be anxious for the morrow, and to 
whom he said; 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, 
possess not gold nor silver nor money in your purses,'^ and 'It 
is harder for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, than 
for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.'^ Therefore he chose 
poor men as his ministers, and those who left all to follow him, 
and was himself an example of poverty. Even so is the handling 
of riches and of money, not merely their possession and owner- 
ship, the enemy of uprightness. Judas alone, he that had the 

1 Acts XX, 3S. 2 Matt, x, 8. ^ i Cor. ix, ij. 

* Rom. xi, 13. 

^ Quoted, freely, from Matt, vi, 19 and Luke x, 4. 

^Quoted, freely, from Matt, xix, 24; Mk. x, 25; Luke xviii, 25. 


habebat et portabat quae mittebantur, praevaricatus est; et amore 
pecuniae, cui assueverat, Magistrum, Dominum, Deum et repre- 
hendit et prodidit. Itaque vereor, Caesar, ne me ex Petro facias 

"Audi etiam quid Paulus dicat: 'Nihil intulimus in hunc mun- 
dum: baud dubium, quod nee auferre quid possumus. Habentes 
autem alimenta, et quibus tegamur, his contenti simus. Nam qui 
volunt divites fieri, incidunt in tentationem et in laqueum diaboli 
et desideria multa et inutilia et nociva, quae mergunt homines in 
interitum et perditionem. Radix enim omnium malorum est cupi- 
ditas, quam quidam appetentes erraverunt a fide, et inseruerunt se 
doloribus multis. Tu autem, homo Dei, haec fuge.' Et tu me 
accipere iubes, Caesar, quae velut venenum effugere debeo! 

"Et quis praeterea, pro tua prudentia, Caesar, consideres, quis 
inter haec divinis rebus faciendis locus? Apostoli, quibusdam in- 
dignantibus quod viduae ipsorum in ministerio quotidiano despi- 
cerentur, responderunt non esse aequum relinquere se verbum 
Dei et ministrare mensis. Et tamen viduarum mensis ministrare, 
quanto aliud est quam exigere vectigalia, curare aerarium, sti- 
pendium numerare militibus, et mille aliis huiusmodi curis impli- 
cari? 'Nemo militans Deo implicat se negotiis saecularibus,' inquit 
Paulus. Numquid Aaron, cum ceteris Levitici generis, aliud 
quam Domini tabernaculum procurabat? Cuius^ filii, quia ignem 
alienum in thuribula sumpserant, igni caelesti conflagraverunt. Et 
tu iubes nos ignem saecularium divitiarum, vetitum ac profanum,^ 
in sacrata thuribula, id est in sacerdotalia opera sumere! Num 
Eleazar, num Phinees, num ceteri pontifices ministrique aut 
tabernaculi aut templi quicquam nisi quod ad rem divinam per- 
tineret administrabant ? Administrabant dico? Immo administrare 
poterant, si officio suo satisfacere volebant? Quod si nolint, au- 
diant exsecrationem Domini dicentis : 'Maledicti, qui opus Domini 

1 Eius ; Hutten. ^ prophanum ; MS., so throughout. 


purses and carried the alms, was a liar, and for the love of money, 
to which he had become accustomed, chided and betrayed his 
Master, his Lord, his God. So I fear, your Majesty, lest you 
change me from a Peter into a Judas. 

"Hear also what Paul says: 'We brought nothing into this 
world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having 
food and raiment, let us be therewith content. But they that will 
be rich fall into temptation and a snare of the devil, and into 
many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction 
and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil, which 
while some coveted after, they erred from the faith, and pierced 
themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, 
flee these things.'^ And you command me, your Majesty, to accept 
what I ought to shun as poison ! 

"And consider besides, for prudence' sake, your Majesty, what 
chance would there be in all this for divine service? To certain 
who complained that their destitute were neglected in the daily 
distribution, the apostles answered that it was not reason that 
they should leave the word of God, and serve tables.^ Yet to feed 
widows, how different is that from exacting tolls, running the 
treasury, hiring soldiers, and engaging in a thousand other cares 
of this sort! 'No man that warreth for God entangleth himself 
with the affairs of this life,'^ says Paul. Did Aaron and others of 
the tribe of Levi take care of anything except the tabernacle of 
the Lord? And his sons, because they had put strange fire in 
their censers, were consumed by fire from heaven. And you order 
us to put the fire of worldly riches, forbidden and profane, in 
our sacred censers, that is, our priestly duties! Did Eleazar, did 
Phinehas, did the other priests and ministers, either of the taber- 
nacle or of the temple, administer anything except what pertained 
to the divine service? I say did they administer, nay, could they 
have administered anything, if they wished to fulfil their own 
duty? And if they did not wish to, they would hear the curse of 
the Lord, saying, 'Cursed be they that do the work of the Lord 

II Tim. vi, 7-11. 2Actsvi, 2. ^ n Tim. ii, 4. 


faciunt negligenter.' Quae exsecratio, cum in omnes, turn in ponti- 
fices maxime cadit. 

"O quantum est pontificale munus! Quantum est caput esse 
ecclesiae! Quantum est praeponi pastorem tanto ovili, e cuius 
manu uniuscuiusque agni ovisque amissae sanguis exigitur; cui 
dictum est: 'Si amas me plusquam alii, ut fateris, pasce agnos 
meos.' Iterum, 'si amas me, ut fateris, pasce oves meas.' Tertio, 'si 
amas me, ut fateris, pasce oves meas!' Et tu me iubes, Caesar, 
capras etiam pascere et porcos, qui nequeunt ab eodem pastore 

"Quid, quod me regem facere vis, aut potius Caesarem, id est 
regum principem? Dominus lesus Christus, Deus et homo, rex et 
sacerdos, cum se regem affirmaret, audi de quo regno locutus est: 
'Regnum meum,' inquit, 'non est de hoc mundo: si enim de hoc 
mundo esset regnum meum, ministri mei utique decertarent.' Et 
quae fuit prima vox, ac frequentior^ clamor praedicationis eius, 
nonne hic:^ 'Paenitentiam agite; appropinquavit enim regnum 
caelorum. Appropinquavit regnum Dei, cui comparabitur regnum 
caeli?' Nonne, cum haec dixit, regnum saeculare nihil ad se perti- 
nere declaravlt? Eoque non modo regnum huiusmodi non quae- 
sivit, sed oblatum quoque accipere noluit. Nam cum intelligeret 
aliquando populos destinasse ut eum raperent regemque facerent, 
in montium solitudines fugit. Quod nobis qui locum eius^ tenemus 
non solum exemplo dedit imitandum, sed etiam praecepto, in- 
quiens: 'Principes gentium dominantur eorum, et qui maiores sunt 
potestatem exercent in eos. Non ita erit inter vos; sed quicumque 
voluerit inter vos maior fieri sit vester minister, et qui voluerit 
primus inter vos esse erit vester servus: sicut filius hominis non 
venit ut ministretur ei, sed ut ministret et det animam suam in* 
redemptionem pro multis.' 

1 frequenter ; Hutten. ^ haec ; Hutten. 

^ipsius; Hutten. suum; Bonneau. * Omit in ; Hutten. 


deceitfully.'^ And this curse, though it impends over all, yet most 
of all it impends over the pontiffs. 

"Oh what a responsibility is the pontifical office! What a respon- 
sibility it is to be head of the church! What a responsibility to 
be appointed over such a great flock as a shepherd at whose hand 
is required the blood of every single lamb and sheep lost; to 
whom it is said, 'If thou lovest me more than these, as thou sayest, 
feed my lambs.' Again, 'If thou lovest me, as thou sayest, feed 
my sheep.' And a third time, 'If thou lovest me, as thou sayest, 
feed my sheep.'^ And you order me, your Majesty, to shepherd 
also goats and swine, which cannot be herded by the same 

"What! you want to make me king, or rather Caesar, that is 
ruler of kings ! When the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, king 
and priest, affirmed himself king, hear of what kingdom he spoke: 
'My kingdom,' he said, 'is not of this world; if my kingdom were 
of this world, then would my servants fight.'^ And what was his 
first utterance and the oft-repeated burden of his preaching, but 
this: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'* 'The king- 
dom of God is at hand for him for whom the kingdom of heaven 
is prepared.' When he said this, did he not make clear that he had 
nothing to do with secular sovereignty? And not only did he not 
seek a kingdom of this sort, but when it was offered him, he would 
not accept it. For once when he learned that the people planned 
to take him and make him king, he fled to the solitude of the 
mountains. He not only gave this to us who occupy his place as an 
example to be imitated, but he taught us by precept: 'The princes 
of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are 
great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among 
you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your 
minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be 
your servant; even as the Son of man came not to be ministered 
unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.'^ 

^ Jer. xlviii, 10, quoted freely. ^Free quotations from John xxi, 15-17. 

3 John xviii, 36. * Matt, iv, 17. 

5 Matt. 3tx, 25-28. 


"ludices olim Deus, ut scias, Caesar, constituit super Israel, 
non reges, populumque sibi nomen regium postulantem detestatus 
est. Nee aliter ob duritiam^ cordis illorum regem dedit, quam 
quod repudium permiserat, quod in nova lege revocavit. Et ego 
regnum accipiam, qui vix iudex esse permittor? 'An nescitis,' 
inquit Paulus, 'quod sancti de hoc mundo iudicabunt? Et si in 
vobis iudicabitur mundus, indigni estis qui de minimis iudicetis. 
Nescitis quod angelos iudicabimus? Quanto magis saecularia? 
Saecularia igitur indicia si habueritis, contemptibiles qui sunt in 
ecclesia, eos constituite ad iudicandum.' Atqui indices de rebus et 
controversiis^ tantummodo iudicabant, non etiam tributa exige- 
bant. Ego exigam, qui scio a Domino interrogatum Petrum: 'A 
quibusnam reges terrae acciperent tributum censumve, a filiis an 
ab alienis?' et cum hie respondisset 'Ab alienis,' ad eodem dictum: 
'Ergo liberi sunt filii?' Quod si omnes filii mei sunt, Caesar, ut 
certe sunt, omnes liberi erunt; nihil quisquam solvet. Igitur non 
est opus mihi tua donatione, qua nihil assecuturus sum praeter 
laborem quem, ut minime debeo, ita minime possum ferre. 

"Quid quod necesse haberem potestatem exercere sanguinis, 
punire sontes, bella gerere, urbes diripere, regiones ferro ignique 
vastare! Aliter non est quod sperem posse me tueri quae tradidis- 
ses. Et si haec fecero, sacerdos, pontifex, Christi vicarius, sum? Ut 
ilium in me tonantem audiam atque dicentem: 'Domus mea domus 
orationis vocabitur omnibus gentibus, et tu fecisti eam speluncam 
latronum.' 'Non veni in mundum,' inquit Dominus, 'ut iudicem 
mundum, sed ut liberem eum.' Et ego qui illi successi causa mor- 

iduriciam; MS. ^ de rebus controversis ; Hutten. 


"Know this, your Majesty; God formerly established judges 
over Israel, not kings; and he hated the people for demanding a 
king for themselves. And he gave them a king on account of 
the hardness of their hearts, but only because he permitted their 
rejection, which he revoked in the new law. And should I accept 
a kingdom, who am scarcely permitted to be a judge? 'Or do ye 
not know,' says Paul, 'that the saints shall judge the world? and 
if the world shall be judged by you, you are not the ones to judge 
the smallest matters. Know ye not that we shall judge angels? 
How much more things that pertain to this life! If then ye have 
judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who 
are least in the church.'^ But judges merely gave judgment con- 
cerning matters in controversy, they did not levy tribute also. 
Should I do it, with the knowledge that when Peter was asked 
by the Lord, 'Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or 
tribute? of their own children or of strangers?' and answered 'Of 
strangers,' the Lord said, 'Then are the children free.'^ But if all 
men are my children, your Majesty, as they certainly are, then 
will all be free; nobody will pay anything. Therefore your Dona- 
tion will be no good to me, and I shall get nothing out of it but 
labor which I am least able to do, as also I am least justified in 
doing it. 

"Nay more, I should have to use my authority to shed blood 
in punishing offenders, in waging wars, in sacking cities, in devas- 
tating countries with fire and sword. Otherwise I could not pos- 
sibly keep what you have given me. And if I do this am I a priest, 
a pontiff, a vicar of Christ? Rather I should hear him thunder out 
against me, saying, 'My house shall be called of all nations the 
house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.'^ 'I am not 
come into the world,' said the Lord, 'to judge the world, but to 
save it.'* And shall I who have succeeded him be the cause of 

1 1 Cor. vi, 2-5, distorted in punctuation and meaning. Paul argues that cases 
should be settled inside the church, and that even the humblest Christians are 
competent to act as judges; Valla quotes him to show that church leaders are not 
to be judges. 

2 Quotations are from Matt, xvii, 25-26. 

5 Mk. xi, 17. * John xii, 47. 


tium ero, cui in persona Petri dictum est: 'Converte gladium tuum 
in locum suum: omnes enim qui acceperint gladium gladio peri- 
bunt?' Ne defendere quidem nobis ferro nos licet, siquidem de- 
fendere Dominum Petrus volebat cum auriculam abscidit servo. 
Et tu divitiarum aut comparandarum aut tuendarum causa uti 
ferro nos iubes? 

"Nostra potestas est potestas clavium, dicente Domino, 'Tibi 
dabo claves regni caelorum. Quodcumque^ ligaveris super terram 
erit ligatum et in caelis, et quodcumque solveris super terram erit 
solutum et in caelis. Et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus 
eas.' Nihil ad banc potestatem, nihil ad banc dignitatem,^ nihil ad 
hoc regnum adici potest. Quo qui contentus non est, aliud sibi 
quoddam a diabolo postulat, qui etiam Domino dicere ausus est: 
'Tibi dabo omnia regna mundi, si cadens in terram adoraveris me.' 
Quare, Caesar, cum pace tua dictum sit, noli mihi diabolus effici 
qui Christum, id est me, regna mundi a te data accipere iubeas. 
Malo enim ilia spernere quam possidere. 

"Et ut aliquid de infidelibus, sed, ut spero, futuris fidelibus, lo- 
quar; noli me de angelo lucis reddere illis angelum tenebrarum, 
quorum corda ad pietatem inducere volo, non ipsorum cervici 
iugum imponere, et gladio quod est verbum Dei, non gladio 
ferreo,^ mihi subicere; ne deteriores efficiantur, ne recalcitrent, ne 
cornu feriant, ne nomen Dei meo irritati errore blasphement.* 
Filios mihi carissimos^ volo reddere, non servos; adoptare, non 
emere; generare, non manu capere; animas eorum offerre sacri- 
iicium Deo, non diabolo corpora. 'Discite a me,' inquit Dominus, 
'quia mitis sum et humilis corde. Capite iugum meum, et invenietis 
requiem animabus vestris. Iugum enim meum suave* et pondus 
meum leve.' 

"Cuius ad extremum, ut iam' finem faciam, illam de° hac re 

iquodcunque; MS., so throughout. 2 dignationem ; Hutten. 

* ferri ; Hutten. * blasfement ; MS., so throughout. 

^ charissimos ; MS. * Insert est; Bonneau (as in Vulgate). 

^ Omit ut iam ; Hutten. in hoc, instead of ut iam ; Bonneau. 

' in ; Hutten. 


men's death, I to whom in the person of Peter it was said, 'Put 
up again thy sword into his place, for all they that take the sword 
shall perish with the sword' ?^ It is not permitted us even to defend 
ourselves with the sword, for Peter wished only to defend his 
Lord, when he cut off the servant's ear. And do you command us 
to use the sword for the sake of either getting or keeping riches? 

"Our authority is the authority of the keys, as the Lord said, 
'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and 
whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: 
and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in 
heaven.'^ 'And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'' 
Nothing can be added to this authority, nor to this dignity, nor to 
this kingdom. He who is not contented therewith, seeks something 
more from the devil, who dared even to say to the Lord, 'I will 
give thee all the kingdoms of the world, if thou wilt fall to the 
earth and worship me.'* Wherefore, your Majesty, by your leave 
let me say it, do not play the part of the devil to me by ordering 
Christ, that is, me, to accept the kingdoms of the world at your 
hand. For I prefer rather to scorn than to possess them. 

"And, to speak of the unbelievers, future believers though, I 
hope, do not transform me for them from an angel of light into an 
angel of darkness. I want to win their hearts to piety, not impose a 
yoke upon their necks; to subject them to me with the sword of 
the word of God, not with a sword of iron, that they should not be 
made worse than they are, nor kick, nor gore me, nor, angered by 
my mistake, blaspheme the name of God. I want to make them my 
most beloved sons, not my slaves; to adopt them, not cast them 
out; to have them born again, not to seize them out of hand; to 
offer their souls a sacrifice to God, not their bodies a sacrifice to 
the devil. 'Come unto me,' says the Lord, 'for I am meek and lowly 
in heart. Take my yoke upon you, and ye shall find rest for your 
souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. '^ 

"Finally, to come to an end at last, in this matter accept that 

1 Matt, xxvi, 52. 2 Matt, xvi, 19. 

3 Matt, xvi, 18. * Matt, iv, 8-9, free quotation. 

^ Matt, xi, 28-30, with the phrases transposed. 


sententiam accipe quam quasi inter me et te tulit. 'Reddite quae 
sunt Caesaris Caesari; et quae sunt Dei Deo.' Quo fit ut nee tu, 
Caesar, tua relinquere, neque ego quae Caesaris sunt accipere 
debeam; quae vel si millies offeras numquam accipiam." 

Ad banc Silvestri orationem apostolico viro dignam, quid esset 
quod amplius Constantinus posset opponere ? Quod cum ita sit, qui 
aiunt donationem esse factam nonne iniuriosi sunt in Constan- 
tinum, quern suos privare imperiumque Romanum voluisse con- 
vellere; iniuriosi in senatum populumque Romanum, Italiam, 
totumque occidentem, quem contra ius fasque mutari imperium 
permississe; iniuriosi in Silvestrum, quem indignam sancto viro 
donationem acceptam habuisse; iniuriosi in summum pontifica- 
tum cui licere terrenis potiri regnis et Romanum moderari Im- 
perium arbitrantur? Haec tamen omnia eo pertinent, ut appareat 
Constantinum inter tot impedimenta numquam fuisse facturum, 
ut rem Romanam Silvestro ex maxima parte donaret ut isti aiunt. 

Age porro, ut credamus istam donationem de qua facit pagina 
vestra mentionem, debet constare etiam de acceptatione Silvestri. 
Nunc de ilia non constat. At credibile est, dicitis, ratam hunc 
habuisse donationem. Ita credo, nee ratam habuisse modo, verum 
etiam petiisse, rogasse, precibus extorsisse, credibile est. Quid 
vos credibile, quod praeter opinionem est hominum, dicitis? Nee 
quia in pagina privilegii de donatione fit mentio, putandum est 
fuisse acceptatum : ^ sed e contrario, quia non fit mentio de accep- 
tatione, dicendum est non fuisse donatum.^ Ita plus contra vos 

^ acceptatam ; Hutten. ^ Bonneau omits acceptatum . . . non fuisse. 


sentence of his, which he spoke as though to me and to you; 
'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God, 
the things that are God's. '^ Accordingly, therefore, your Majesty, 
you must not surrender the things that are yours, and I must not 
accept the things that are Caesar's; nor will I ever accept them, 
though you offer them a thousand times." 

To this speech of Sylvester's, worthy of an a postolic hero, wh at 
could there be further for Constantine to bring out in opposition? 
Since the case stands thus, do not they who say that the Donation 
took place do violence to Constantine when they would have him 
rob his own family and tear the Roman Empire asunder? Do they 
not do violence to the Senate and the Roman people, to Italy, and 
to the whole West, which according to them allowed the govern- 
ment to be changed contrary to law and justice? Do they not do 
violence to Sylvester, who according to them accepted a gift not 
befitting a holy man? violence to the supreme pontificate, when 
they think that it would take charge of earthly kingdoms and 
rule over the Roman Empire? Verily, all this tends to show 
plainly that Constantine, in the face of so many obstacles, would 
never have thought of giving practically the whole Roman state 
to Sylvester, as they say he did. 

Proceed to the next point; to make us believe in this "dona- 
tion" which your document recites, something ought still to be 
extant concerning Sylvester's acceptance of it. There is nothing 
concerning it extant. But it is believable, you say, that he recog- 
nized this "donation." I believe so, too; that [if it was given] he 
not only recognized it, but sought it, asked for it, extorted it with 
his prayers ; that is believable. But why do you reverse the natural 
conjecture and then say it is believable? For the fact that there is 
mention of the donation in the document of the deed is no reason 
for inferring that it was accepted; but on the contrary, the fact 
that there is no mention [an3rwhere] of an acceptance is reason 
for saying that there was no donation. So you have stronger proof 

^Matt. xxii, 21. 


facit, hunc donum respuisse, quam ilium dare voluisse; et bene- 
ficium in invitum non confertur. Neque vero tantum donata 
respuisse Silvestrum suspicari debemus, sed tacite etiam indicasse 
nee ilium dare iure^ nee se iure accipere posse. 

Sed eaeeam semper inconsultamque avaritiam!^ Demus ut 
tabulas quoque de assensu Silvestri proferre possitis veras, in- 
corruptas, sineeras: num protinus donata sunt quae in talibus' 
continentur? Ubi possessio? Ubi in manus traditio? Nam si 
chartam modo Constantinus dat, non gratifieari Silvestro voluit, 
sed illudere. Verisimile est, dicitis, qui donat quippiam eum et pos- 
sessionem tradere. Videte quid loquamini! eum possessionem non 
esse datam constet, et an datum sit ius ambigatur. Verisimile est 
qui possessionem non dedit, eum ne ius quidem dare voluisse. 

An non eonstat possessionem numquam fuisse traditam? Quod 
negare impudentissimum est. Numquid Silvestrum Constantinus 
in Capitolium quasi triumphantem inter frequentium Quiritum, 
sed infidelium, plausum duxit? In sella aurea adsistente universo 
senatu colloeavit? Magistratus pro sua quemque dignitate regem 
salutare et adorare iussit? Hoc* erga novos prineipes fieri solet, 
non tantum aliquod palatium velut Lateranense tradi. Num postea 
per universam Italiam eireumduxit?^ Adiit cum illo Gallias; adiit 
Hispanos;'' adiit Germanos, eeterumque oceidentem? Aut si grava- 
bantur' ambo tantum obire terrarum, quibusnam tam ingens 
offieium delegarunt, qui et Caesaris vice traderent possessionem 
et Silvestri aeeiperent? Magni ii' viri atque eximiae auctoritatis 
esse debuerunt: et tamen qui fuerint ignoramus. Et quantum in 
his duobus verbis, tradere et accipere, subest pondusP Nostra 
memoria, ut exempla vetusta omittam, numquam aliter facitatum 
vidimus, cum quis aut urbis aut regionis aut provinciae dominus 
f actus est; ita demum traditam existimari possessionem, si magis- 

liuste; Hutten. ^avariciam; MS. 

^tabulis; Hutten. *haec . . . solent; Hutten. 

^ circunduxit ; MS. * Hispanias ; Hutten. 

' Hutten. gratulabantur ; MS. ^ hi ; Hutten. 
^ This sentence is omitted by Hutten. 


that Sylvester refused the gift than that Constantine wished to 
give it, and a benefaction is not conferred upon a man against his 
will. Indeed, we must suspect not so much that Sylvester refused 
the grants as that he tacitly disclosed that neither could Con- 
stantine legally make them nor could he himself legally accept. 

O avarice, ever blind and ill-advised! Let us suppose that you 
may be able to adduce even genuine documents for the assent of 
Sylvester, not tampered with, authentic: even so, were the grants 
actually made which are found in such documents? Where is any 
taking possession, any delivery? For if Constantine gave a charter 
only, he did not want to befriend Sylvester, but to mock him. 
It is likely, you say, that any one who makes a grant, gives pos- 
session of it, also. See what you are saying; for it is certain that 
possession was not given, and the question is whether the title was 
given! It is likely that one who did not give possession • did not 
want to give the title either. 

Or is it not certain that possession was never given? To deny 
it is the sheerest impudence. Did Constantine ever lead Sylvester 
in state to the Capitol amid the shouts of the assembled Quirites, 
heathen as they were? Did he place him on a golden throne in 
the presence of the whole Senate? Did he command the magis- 
trates, each in the order of his rank, to salute their king and 
prostrate themselves before him? This, rather than the giving of 
some palace such as the Lateran, is customary in the creation of 
new rulers. Did he afterwards escort him through all Italy? Did 
he go with him to the Gauls? Did he go to the Spains? Did he 
go to the Germans, and the rest of the West? Or if they both 
thought it too onerous to traverse so many lands, to whom did 
they delegate such an important function, to represent Caesar in 
transferring possession and Sylvester in receiving it? Distin- 
guished men, and men of eminent authority, they must have 
been: and nevertheless we do not know who they were. And how 
much weight there is here in these two words, give and receive! 
To pass by ancient instances, I do not remember to have seen 
any other procedure when any one was made lord of a city, a 
country, or a province; for we do not count possession as given 


tratus pristini summoveantur novique subrogentur. Hoc si tunc 
Silvester fieri non postulasset, tamen magnificentiae Constantini 
intererat, ut declararet non verbo se, sed re possessionem tradere, 
suos praesides amovere aliosque ab illo substitui iubere. Non tradi- 
tur possessio quae penes eosdem remanet qui possidebant, et 
novus dominus illos summovere non audet. 

Sed fac istud quoque non obstare, et nihilominus putari Silves- 
trum possedisse, atque omnia praeter morem praeterque naturam 
tunc esse dicamus administrata. Postquam ille abiit, quos provin- 
ciis urbibusque rectores Silvester praeposuit; quae bella gessit; 
quas nationes ad arma spectantes oppressit; per quos haec ad- 
ministravit? Nihil horum scimus, respondetis. Ita puto, nocturno 
tempore haec onuiia gesta sunt, et ideo nemo vidit. 

Age, fuit in possessione Silvester? Quis eum de possessione 
deiecit? Nam perpetuo in possessione non fuit, neque successorum 
aliquis saltem usque ad Gregorium Magnum, qui et ipse caruit 
possessione. Qui extra possessionem est, nee se ab ea deiectum 
probare potest, is profecto numquam possedit; et si se possedisse 
dicat, insanit. Vides ut te insanum etiam probo! Alioquin, die 
quis papam deiecit ? Ipsene Constantinus, an eius filii, an lulianus, 
an quis^ alius Caesar? Profer nomen expulsoris, profer tempus, 
unde primum, unde seeundo, ae deineeps expulsus est. Num per 
seditionem^ et caedes, an sine his? Coniurarunt in eum par iter 
nationes, an quae prima? Quid! Nemo omnium auxilio fuit: ne 
illorum quidem qui per Silvestrum aliumve papam praepositi 
urbibus ac provinciis erant? Uno die universa amisit; an paulatim 
et per partes? Restitit ipse suique magistratus; an ad primum se 
tumultum abdicarunt? Quid! Ipsi victores non in eam faecem' 
hominum, quam indignam imperio ducebant, ferro grassati sunt, 
in ultionem^ contumeliae, in tutelam occupatae dominationis, in 

1 aliquis ; Hutten. ^ sedicionem ; MS. 

3 fecem ; MS. * ulcionem ; MS. 


until the old magistrates are removed and the new ones sub- 
stituted. If then Sylvester had not demanded that this be done, 
nevertheless the dignity of Constantine required that he show 
that he gave possession not in words but in fact, that he ordered 
his officers to retire and others to be substituted by Sylvester. 
Possession is not transferred when it remains in the hands of 
those who had it before, and the new master dares not remove 

But grant that this also does not stand in the way, that, not- 
withstanding, we assume Sylvester to have been in possession, and 
let us say that the whole transaction took place though not in 
the customary and natural way. After Constantine went away, 
what governors did Sylvester place over his provinces and cities, 
what wars did he wage, what nations that took up arms did he 
subdue, through whom did he carry on this government? We 
know none of these circumstances, you answer. So! I think all 
this was done in the nighttime, and no one saw it at all ! 

Come now! Was Sylvester ever in possession? Who dispos- 
sessed him? For he did not have possession permanently, nor did 
any of his successors, at least till Gregory the Great, and even he 
did not have possession. One who is not in possession and cannot 
prove that he has been disseized certainly never did have pos- 
session, and if he says he did, he is crazy. You see, I even prove 
that you are crazy! Otherwise, tell who dislodged the Pope? Did 
Constantine himself, or his sons, or Julian, or some other Caesar? 
Give the name of the expeller, give the date, from what place was 
the Pope expelled first, where next, and so in order. Was it by 
sedition and murder, or without these? Did the nations conspire 
together against him, or which first? What! Did not one of them 
give him aid, not one of those who had been put over cities or 
provinces by Sylvester or another Pope? Did he lose everything 
in a single day, or gradually and by districts? Did he and his 
magistrates offer resistance, or did they abdicate at the first dis- 
turbance? What! Did not the victors use the sword on those dregs 
of humanity, whom they thought unworthy of the Empire, to 
revenge their outrage, to make sure of the newly won mastery, to 


contemptum religionis nostrae, in ipsum etiam posteritatis ex- 
emplum? Omnino eorum qui victi sunt nemo fugam cepit? nemo 
latuit? nemo timuit? O admirabilem casum! Imperium Romanum 
tantis laboribus, tanto cruore partum, tam placide, tam quiete a 
Christianis sacerdotibus vel partum est, vel amissum, ut nuUus 
cruor, nullum bellum, nulla querela inter cesserit; et quod non 
minus admirari debeas, per quos hoc gestum sit, quo tempore, quo- 
modo, quamdiu, prorsus ignotum. Putes in silvis inter arbores 
regnasse Silvestrum, non Romae, et inter homines ; et ab hibernis^ 
imbribus frigoribusque, non ab hominibus eiectum. 

Quis non habet cognitum, qui paulo plura lectitarit, quot reges 
Romae, quot consules, quot dictatores, quot tribuni plebis, quot 
censores, quot aediles^ creati fuerint ? Nemoque ex tanta hominum 
copia, ex tanta vetustate nos fugit. Scimus item quot Athenien- 
sium duces, quot Thebanorum, quotLacedaemoniorum exstiterint; 
pugnas eorum terrestres navalesque universas tenemus. Non igno- 
ramus qui reges Persarum, Medorum,^ Chaldaeorum, Hebraeorum 
fuerint, aliorumque plurimorum; et quomodo horum quisque aut 
acceperit regnimi, aut tenuerit, aut perdiderit, aut recuperaverit. 
Romanum autem, sive Silvestrianum, Imperivmi, qua ratione in- 
ceperit, aut qua desierit, quando, per quos, in ipsa quoque urbe 
nescitur. Interrogo num* quos harum rerum testes auctoresque 
proferre possitis. Nullos, respondetis. Et non pudet vos, non tam 
homines, quam pecudes dicere verisimile esse possedisse Silves- 

Quod quia vos non potestis, ego e contrario docebo, ad ultimum 
usque diem vitae Constantinum, et gradatim deinceps omnes 
Caesares possedisse, ut ne quid habeatis quod hiscere possitis. 
At perdifficile est et magni, ut opinor, operis hoc docere! Evolvan- 
tur omnes Latinae Graecaeque historiae; citentur ceteri auctores 
qui de illis meminere temporibus : ac° neminem reperies in hac re 
ab alio discrepare. Unum ex mille testimoniis sufficiat." Eutropius, 
qui Constantinum, qui tres Constantini Alios a patre relictos 

1 hybernis ; MS. = ediles ; MS. 

^ Moedorum ; MS. * enim ; Hutten. 

Sat; Hutten. "Hutten. sufficiet; MS. 


show contempt for our religion, not even to make an example for 
posterity? Did not one of those who were conquered take to flight 
at all? Did no one hide? Was no one afraid? O marvellous event! 
The Roman Empire, acquired by so many labors, so much blood- 
shed, was so calmly, so quietly both won and lost by Christian 
priests that no bloodshed, no war, no uproar took place; and not 
less marvellous, it is not known at all by whom this was done, nor 
when, nor how, nor how long it lasted! You would think that 
Sylvester reigned in sylvan shades, among the trees, not at Rome 
nor among men, and that he was driven out by winter rains and 
cold, not by men! 

Who that is at all widely read, does not know what Roman 
kings, what consuls, what dictators, what tribunes of the people, 
what censors, what aediles were chosen? Of such a large number 
of men in times so long past, none escapes us. We know also 
what Athenian commanders there were, and Theban, and Lace- 
demonian; we know all their battles on land and sea. Nor are the 
kings of the Persians unknown to us; of the Medes; of the Chal- 
deans; of the Hebrews; and of very many others; nor how each 
of these received his kingdom, or held it, or lost it, or recovered it. 
But how the Roman Empire, or rather the Sylvestrian, began, 
how it ended, when, through whom, is not known even in the city 
of Rome itself. I ask whether you can adduce any witnesses of 
these events, any writers. None, you answer. And are you not 
ashamed to say that it is likely that Sylvester possessed — even 
cattle, to say nothing of men! 

But since you cannot [prove anything], I for my part will 
show that Constantine, to the very last day of his life, and there- 
after all the Caesars in turn, did have possession [of the Roman 
Empire], so that you will have nothing left even to mutter. But it 
is a very difficult, and, I suppose, a very laborious task, forsooth, 
to do this! Let all the Latin and the Greek histories be unrolled, 
let the other authors who mention those times be brought in, and 
you will not find a single discrepancy among them on this point. 
Of a thousand witnesses, one may suffice; Eutropius, who saw 
Constantine, who saw the three sons of Constantine who were left 


dominos orbis terrarum vidit, qui de luliano filio fratris Constan- 
tini ita scribit: "Hie lulianus, qui fuit subdiaconus^ in Romana 
ecclesia, Imperator^ effectus apostatavit in idolorum cultu/ rerum 
potitus est, ingentique apparatu Parthis intulit bellum, cui expe- 
ditioni ego quoque interfui." Nee de donatione Imperii occidentis 
tacuisset; nee paulo post de loviano, qui suecessit luliano, ita 
dixisset: "Paeem cum Sapore necessariam quidem sed ignobilem 
fecit, mutatis finibus ac nonnulla Imperii Romani parte tradita. 
Quod ante, ex quo Romanum Imperium eonditum erat, numquam 
accidit. Quin etiam legiones nostrae apud Caudium per Pentium 
Telesinum* et in Hispania apud Numantiam et in Numidia sub 
iugo missae sunt, ut nihil tamen finium traderetur." 

Hoe loco libet vos,^ nuperrime licet" defuncti estis, eonvenire, 
pontifices Romani, et te, Eugeni, qui vivis cum Felicis^ tamen 
venia. Cur donationem Constantini magno ore iactitatis, frequen- 
terque vos ultores erepti Imperii quibusdam regibus principibus- 
que minamini, et eonfessionem quandam servitutis a Caesare dum 
coronandus est et a nonnullis aliis principibus extorquetis, veluti 
ab rege Neapolitano atque Sieiliae; id quod numquam aliquis 
veterum Romanorum pontificum fecit, non Damasus apud Theo- 
dosium, non Syricius apud Arcadium,' non Anastasius apud 
Honorium, non loannes apud lustinianum, non alii apud alios 
sanctissimi papae apud optimos Gaesares, sed semper illorum 
Romam Italiamque, cum provinciis quas nominavi, fuisse professi 
sunt? Eoque numismata aurea, ut de aliis monumentis sileam 
templisque urbis Romanae, circumferuntur, non Graeeis sed 
Latinis litteris inseripta, Constantini iam Christiani et deineeps 

idiaconus; Hutten. 2 imperatorque ; Hutten. 

' The clauses, qui fuit . . . idolorum cultu, are not in the original text of 

*Eutropius, Bonneau. Claudium propontum, thelesium; MS. Claudium pro- 
pontum Telestinum; Hutten. Caudium Propontum Telesinum; Schard. Valla 
makes omissions in this and in the preceding sentence from Eutropius. 

^ Insert qui ; Hutten. ^ Omit licet ; Hutten. 

Taelicis; MS. ^Archadium; MS. 


masters of the world by their father, and who wrote thus in con- 
nection with Julian, the son of Constantine's brother: "This 
Julian, who was subdeacon in the Roman church and when he 
became Emperor returned to the worship of the gods, seized the 
government, and after elaborate preparations made war against 
the Parthians; in which expedition I also took part."^ He would 
not have kept silent about the donation of the Western Empire 
[had it been made] , nor would he have spoken as he did a little 
later about Jovian, who succeeded Julian: "He made with Sapor 
a peace which was necessary, indeed, but dishonorable, the bound- 
aries being changed and a part of the Roman Empire being 
given up, a thing which had never before happened since the 
Roman state was founded; no, not even though our legions, at 
the Caudine [Forks] by Pontius Telesinus, and in Spain at Nu- 
mantia, and in Numidia, were sent under the yoke, were any of 
the frontiers given up."^ 

Here I would like to interrogate you, most recent, though 
deceased, Popes, and you, Eugenius, who live, thanks only to 
Felix.' Why do you parade the Donation of Constantine with a 
great noise; and all the time, as though avengers of a stolen 
Empire, threaten certain kings and princes; and extort some 
servile confession or other from the Emperor when he is crowned, 
and from some other princes, such as the king of Naples and 
Sicily? None of the early Roman pontiffs ever did this, Damasus 
in the case of Theodosius, nor Syricius in the case of Arcadius, 
nor Anastasius in the case of Honorius, nor John in the case of 
Justinian, nor the other most holy Popes respectively in the case 
of the other most excellent Emperors: rather they always re- 
garded Rome and Italy and the provinces I have named as 
belonging to the Emperors. And so, to say nothing of other monu- 
ments and temples in the city of Rome, there are extant gold coins 
of Constantine's after he became a Christian, with inscriptions, 

1 Eutropius, Breviarum ab urbe condita, X, xvi, i. 

2 Ibid., X, xvii, i and 2. 

^ The antipope elected by the Council of Basle in 1439. This reference is one of 
the clues to the date of Valla's treatise. 


cunctorum ferme Imperatorum, quorum multa penes me sunt 
cum hac plerumque subscriptione subter imaginem crucis, "Con- 
cordia orbis." Qualia infinita reperirentur summorum ponti- 
ficum, si umquam Romae imperassetis ! Quae nulla reperiuntur, 
neque aurea, neque argentea, neque ab aliquo visa memorantur. 
Et tamen necesse erat illo tempore proprium habere numisma 
quisquis imperium Romae teneret; saltem sub imagine Salvatoris 
aut Petri. 

Pro^ imperitiam hominurn! Non cernitis, si donatio Constan- 
tini vera est, Caesari — de Latino loquor — nihil relinqui. En qualis 
Imperator, qualis rex Romanus erit, cuius regnum si quis habeat, 
nee aliud habeat, omnino nil habet! Quod si itaque palam est 
Silvestrum non possedisse; hoc est, Constantinum non tradidisse 
possessionem, haud dubium erit ne ius quidem, ut dixi, dedisse 
possidendi: nisi dicitis ius quidem datum, sed aliqua causa pos- 
sessionem non traditam; ita plane dabat quod minime futurum 
intelligebat; dabat quod tradere non poterat; dabat quod non 
prius venire in manus eius cui dabatur possibile erat quam esset 
extinctum; dabat donum quod ante quingentos annos aut num- 
quam valiturum foret. Verum hoc loqui aut sentire insanum est. 

Sed iam tempus est, ne longior fiam, causae adversariorum iam 
concisae atque laceratae letale^ vulnus imprimere et uno eam 
iugulare ictu. Omnis fere historia, quae nomen historiae meretur, 
Constantinum a puero cum patre Constantio^ Christianum refert 
multo etiam ante pontificatum Silvestri; ut Eusebius ecclesiasticae 
scriptor historiae, quern Rufinus,* non in postremis doctus, in 
Latinum interpretatus duo volumina de aevo suo adiecit, quorum 

iProho;MS. Proh; Hutten. 2 laetale ; MS., Hutten. 

3 Hutten. Constantino; MS. error. *Ruffinus;MS. 


not in Greek, but in Latin letters, and of almost all the Emperors 
in succession. There are many of them in my possession with this 
inscription for the most part, under the image of the cross, "Con- 
cordia orbis [The Peace of the World] ." What an infinite number 
of coins of the supreme pontiffs would be found if you ever had 
ruled Rome! But none such are found, neither gold nor silver, 
nor are any mentioned as having been seen by any one. And yet 
whoever held the government at Rome at that time had to have 
his own coinage: doubtless the Pope's would have borne the 
image of the Savior or of Peter. 

Alas for man's ignorance ! You do not see that if the Donation 
of Constantine is authentic nothing is left to the Emperor, the 
Latin Emperor, I mean. Ah, what an Emperor, what a Roman 
king, he would be, when if any one had his kingdom and had no 
other, he would have nothing at all ! But if it is thus manifest that 
Sylvester did not have possession, that is, that Constantine did 
not give over possession, then there will be no doubt that he [Con- 
stantine], as I have said, did not give even the right to possess. 
That is, unless you say that the right was given, but that for 
some reason possession was not transferred. In that case he mani- 
festly gave what he knew would never in the least exist; he gave 
what he could not transfer; he gave what could not come into 
the possession of the recipient until after it was nonexistent ; he 
gave a gift which would not be valid for five hundred years, or 
never would be valid. But to say or to think this is insanity. 

But it is high time, if I am not to be too prolix, to give the 
adversaries' cause, already struck down and mangled, the mortal 
blow and to cut its throat with a single stroke. Almost every 
history worthy of the name speaks of Constantine as a Christian 
from boyhood, with his father Constantius, long before the pon- 
tificate of Sylvester; as, for instance, Eusebius, author of the 
Church History, which Rufinus, himself a great scholar, trans- 
lated into Latin, adding two books on his own times.^ Both of these 

^Valla's statement about Eusebius' Church History is slightly overdrawn. Some 
passages, while not definitely saying that Constantine was a Christian from boy- 


uterque paene^ Constantini temporibus fuit. Adde hue testimonium 
etiam Romani pontificis qui his rebus gerendis non interfuit sed 
praefuit, non testis sed auctor, non alieni negotii sed sui narrator. 
Is est Melchiades papa, qui proximus fuit ante Silvestrum, qui 
ita ait: "Ecclesia ad hoc usque pervenit, ut non solum gentes sed 
etiam Romani principes, qui totius orbis monarchiam tenebant, ad 
fidem Christi et^ fidei sacramenta concurrerent. E quibus vir 
religiosissimus Constantinus, primus fidem veritatis patenter adep- 
tus, licentiam dedit per universum orbem' suo degentibus imperio 
non solum fieri Christianos, sed etiam fabricandi ecclesias, et 
praedia constituit tribuenda. Denique idem praefatus princeps 
donaria immensa contulit, et fabricam templi primae sedis beati 
Petri instituit; adeo ut sedem imperialem relinqueret et beato 
Petro suisque successoribus profuturam concederet." En nihil 
Melchiades a Constantino datum ait, nisi palatium Lateranense, 
et praedia, de quibus Gregorius in registro facit saepissime men- 
tionem. Ubi sunt qui nos* in dubium vocare non sinunt donatio 
Constantini valeat necne, cum ilia donatio fuerit et ante Silves- 
trum et rerum tantummodo privatarum ? 

ipene; MS., Hutten. ^ insert ad; Hutten. ^ Insert sub; Hutten. 

4Bonneau. non; MS. qui non in dubium vocari; Hutten. qui in dubium 
vocari; Schard. 


men were nearly contemporary with Constantine. Add to this also 
the testimony of the Roman pontiff who not only took part, but 
the leading part in these events, who was not merely a witness 
but the prime mover, who narrates, not another's doings, but his 
own. I refer to Pope Melchiades, Sylvester's immediate prede- 
cessor. He says: "The church reached the point where not only 
the nations, but even the Roman rulers who held sway over the 
whole world, came together into the faith of Christ and the sacra- 
ments of the faith. One of their number, a most devout man, Con- 
stantine, the first openly to come to belief in the Truth, gave 
permission to those living under his government, throughout the 
whole world, not only to become Christians, but even to build 
churches, and he decreed that landed estates be distributed among 
these. Finally also the said ruler bestowed immense offerings, and 
began the building of the temple which was the first seat of the 
blessed Peter, going so far as to leave his imperial residence and 
give it over for the use of the blessed Peter and his successors."^ 
You see, incidentally, that Melchiades does not say that anything 
was given by Constantine except the Lateran palace, and landed 
estates, which Gregory mentions very frequently in his register. 
Where are those who do not permit us to call into question 
whether the Donation of Constantine is valid, when the "dona- 
tion" both antedated Sylvester and conferred private possessions 

hood, would naturally be construed as implying this, especially when taken in 
connection with the chapter headings in use long before Valla's time; e.g., ix, 9, 
§§ 1-12. In his Life of Constantine, i, 27-32, however, Eusebius tells the story of 
the Emperor's conversion in the campaign against Maxentius in 312 by the heavenly 
apparition, thus implying that he was not previously a Christian. Valla does not 
seem to have known of this latter work. Nor is he aware of the passage in Jerome, 
Chron. ad. ann., 2353, that Constantine was baptized near the end of his life by 
Eusebius of Nicomedia. 

^ This is an extract from a spurious letter purporting to be from Melchiades, or 
Miltiades; as palpable a forgery as the Donation of Constantine itself. The whole 
letter is given in Migne, P. L., viii, column 566. 

For the question when Constantine became a Christian, and of his relations 
with the Popes and the church, cf. Coleman, Constantine the Great and Chris- 
tianity, with references to sources and literature. 


Quae res quamquam plana et aperta sit, tamen de ipso quod isti 
stolidi prof erre solent privilegio disserendum est. 

Et ante omnia non modo ille qui Gratianus videri voluit, qui 
nonnuUa ad opus Gratiani adiecit, improbitatis arguendus est, 
verum etiam inscitiae qui opinantur paginam privilegii apud 
Gratianum contineri; quod neque docti umquam putarunt, et in 
vetustissimis quibusque editionibus^ decretorum non invenitur. 
Et si quo in loco huius rei Gratianus meminisset, non in hoc ubi 
isti collocant seriem ipsam orationis abrumpentes, sed in eo ubi 
agit de Ludovici^ pactione meminisset. Praeterea duo millia loco- 
rum in decretis sunt quae ab huius loci fide dissentiant; quorum 
unus est ubi, quae superius retuli, Melchiadis verba ponuntur. 
NormuUi eum qui hoc capitulum adiecit aiunt vocatum Paleam 
vel vero nomine, vel ideo quod quae de suo adiunxit ad Gratianum 
comparata instar palearum iuxta frumenta existimentur. Utcum- 
que sit, indignissimum est credere, quae ab' hoc adiecta sunt, ea 
decretorum collectorem aut ignorasse, aut magnifecisse habuisse- 
que pro veris. Bene habet, sufficit; vicimus. Primum quod hoc 
Gratianus non ait ut isti mentiebantur, immo adeo, prout^ ex 
infinitis locis datur intelligi, negat atque confutat. Deinde quod 
unum et ignotum et nuUius auctoritatis ac minimi^ hominem 
afferunt, ita etiam stolidum, ut ea Gratiano affinxerit, quae cum 
ceteris illius dictis congruere non possent. Hunc ergo vos aucto- 
rem profertis? Huius unius testimonio nitimini?" Huius chartulam 
ad tantae rei confirmationem contra sexcenta probationum genera 
recitatis? At ego exspectaveram ut aurea sigilla, marmoratos 
titulos, mille auctores ostenderetis. 

Sed ipse, dicitis, Palea auctorem profert, fontem historiae os- 

1 codicibus ; Hutten. ^LodoicijMS. 3ad;Hutten. 

*ut;Hutten. ^ nauci ; Hutten, Bonneau. ° utimini; Hutten. 


But though it is all obvious and clear, yet the deed of gift itself, 
which those fools always put forward, must be discussed. 

And first, not only must I convict of dishonesty him who 
tried to play Gratian and added sections to the worE of Gratian, 
but also must convict of ignorance those who think a copy of 
the deed of gift is contained in Gratian; for the well-informed 
have never thought so, nor is it found in any of the oldest copies 
of the Decretum. And if Gratian had mentioned it anywhere, he 
would have done so, not where they put it, breaking the thread 
of the narrative, but where he treats of the agreement of Louis 
[the Pious]. Besides, there are two thousand passages in the 
Decretum which forbid the acceptance of this passage; for ex- 
ample, that where the words of Melchiades, which I have cited 
above, are given. Some say that he who added this chapter [the 
Donation of Constantine] was called Palea,^ either because that 
was his real name or because what he added of his own, compared 
with Gratian, is as straw [palea] beside grain. However that may 
be, it is monstrous to believe that the compiler of the Decretum 
either did not know what was interpolated by this man, or es- 
teemed it highly and held it for genuine. Good! It is enough! We 
have won ! First, because Gratian does not say what they lyingly 
quote; and more especially because on the contrary, as can be 
seen in innumerable passages, he denies and disproves it; and last, 
because they bring forward only a single unknown individual, of 
not the least authority, so very stupid as to affix to Gratian what 
cannot be harmonized with his other statements. This then is the 
author you bring forward? On his sole testimony you rely? His 
charter, in a matter of such importance, you recite as confirma- 
tion against hundreds of kinds of proof? But I should have ex- 
pected you to show gold seals, marble inscriptions, a thousand 

But, you say, Palea himself adduces his author, shows the 

1 A number of chapters in Gratian's Decretum added after Gratian have this 
word at their head, the one containing the Donation of Constantine among them. 
Cf. Friedberg's edition of the Decretum Gratiani, Prima pars, dist. xcvi, c. xiii, in 
his Corpus luris Canonici, Leipsic, 1879-1881. 


tendit, et Gelasium^ papam cum multis episcopis in testimonium 
citat. "Ex Gestis," inquit, "Silvestri, quae beatus Gelasius in con- 
cilio septuaginta episcoporum a catholicis legi commemorat, et pro 
antique usu multas hoc dicit ecclesias imitari; in quibus legitur, 
Constantinus et cetera." Multo superius, ubi de libris legendis et 
non legendis agitur, etiam dixerat, "Actus beati Silvestri praesulis, 
licet eius qui scripsit nomen ignoremus, a multis tamen ab urbe 
Roma catholicis legi cognovimus, et pro antiquo usu hoc imitantur 
ecclesiae." Mira haec auctoritas, mirum testimonium, inexpugna- 
bilis probatio ! Dono vobis hoc, Gelasium dum de concilio septua- 
ginta episcoporum loquitur id dixisse. Num id dixit, paginam 
privilegii in beatissimi Silvestri Gestis legi? Is vero tantum ait 
Gesta Silvestri legi^ et hoc Romae, cuius ecclesiae auctoritatem 
multae aliae sequuntur,^ quod ego non nego; concedo, fateor; me 
quoque una cum Gelasio testem exhibeo. Verum quid vobis ista 
res prodest, nisi ut in adducendis testibus mentiri voluisse vide- 
amini? Ignoratur nomen eius qui hoc in Decretis ascripsit, et 
solus hoc dicit. Ignoratur nomen eius qui scripsit historiam, et 
solus is et falso testis affertur. Et vos, boni viri atque prudentes, 
hoc satis superque esse ad tantae rei testimonium existimatis? At 
videte, quantum inter meum intersit vestrumque indicium. Ego ne 
si hoc quidem apud Gesta Silvestri privilegium contineretur, pro 
vero habendum putarem, cum historia ilia non historia sit, sed 
poetica et impudentissima fabula, ut posterius ostendam; nee 
quisquam alius alicuius dumtaxat* auctoritatis de hoc privilegio 

1 Gelatium ; MS., so throughout. 

" Omit Is . . . legi ; Hutten, evidently copyist's error. 

^secuntur: MS. * duntaxat ; MS. 


source of his narrative, and cites Pope Gelasius and many bishops 
as witnesses; it is, he says, "from the Acts of Sylvester (which 
the blessed Pope Gelasius in the Council of the Seventy Bishops 
recounts as read by the catholic, and in accordance with ancient 
usage many churches he says follow this example) which reads: 
'Constantine . . . , etc' "^ Considerably earlier, where books to 
be read and books not to be read are treated, he had said also; 
"The Acts of the blessed Sylvester, chief priest, though we know 
not the name of him who wrote it, we know to be read by many of 
the orthodox of the city of Rome, and in accordance with ancient 
usage the churches follow this example.'" Wonderful authority 
this, wonderful evidence, irrefutable proof ! I grant you this, that 
Gelasius in speaking of the Council of the Seventy Bishops said 
that. But did he say this, that the deed of gift is to be read 
in the Acts of the most blessed Sylvester? He says, indeed, only 
that the Acts of Sylvester are read, and that in Rome, and that 
many other churches follow her authority. I do not deny this, I 
concede it, I admit it, I also stand up with Gelasius as a witness 
to it. But what advantage is this to you, except that you may 
be shown toJaave deliberately lied in adducing your witnesses? ■ 
The name of the man who interpolated this ["Donation" of 
yours] is not known, and he is the only one who says this [that ') 
the Donation is in the Acts of Sylvester] ; the name of the man ) 
who wrote the history of Sylvester is not known, and he is the 
only one cited as witness, and that erroneously. And good men 
and prudent as you are, you think this is enough and more than 
enough evidence for such an important transaction! Well! how 
your judgment differs from mine! Even if this grant were con- 
tained in the Acts of Sylvester, I should not think it was to be 
considered genuine, for that history is not history, but fanciful 
and most shameful fiction, as I shall later show; nor does any one 
else of any authority whatever make mention of this grant. And 

iDecretum Gratiani, Prima pars, dist. xcvi, c. xiii; in Friedberg, Corpus luris 
Canonici, vol. II, p. 342. 

''Ibid., Pars prima, dist. xv, c. iii, Palea 19; in Friedberg, vol. II. 


habeat mentionem. Et lacobus Voraginensis, propensus in amorem 
clericorum ut archiepiscopus, tamen in Gestis sanctorum de dona- 
tione Constantini, ut fabulosa nee digna quae inter Gesta Sil- 
vestri poneretur, silentium egit; lata quodammodo sententia 
contra eos, si qui haec litteris mandavissent. 

Sed ipsum falsarium ac vere "paleam," non triticum, obtorto 
cello in indicium trahere volo. Quid ais, falsarie? Unde fit quod 
istud privilegium inter Silvestri Gesta non legimus? Credo hie 
liber rarus est, difficilis inventu, nee vulgo habetur, sed tamquam 
fasti olim a pontificibus, aut libri Sibyllini^ a decemviris eusto- 
ditur! Lingua Graeca aut Syriaea aut Chaldaiea scriptus est! 
Testatur Gelasius a multis catholicis legi; Voraginensis de eo 
meminit; nos quoque mille et antique scripta exemplaria vidimus; 
et in omni fere cathedrali ecelesia, cum adest Silvestri natalis dies, 
lectitantur: et tamen nemo se illic legisse istud ait quod tu affingis, 
nemo audisse, nemo somniasse. An alia quaedam fortassis historia 
est ? Et quaenam ista erit? Ego aliam nescio, nee abs te aliam did 
interpreter, quippe de ea tu loqueris quam Gelasius apud multas 
ecclesias lectitari refert. In hae autem tuum privilegium non in- 
venimus. Quod si istud in Vita Silvestri non legitur, quid tu ita 
legi tradidisti? Quid in tanta re iocari ausus es, et levium hominum 
eupiditatem eludere? 

Sed stultus sum qui illius potius inseetor audacium, quam is- 
torum dementiam qui crediderunt. Si quis apud Graeeos, apud 
Hebraeos, apud barbaros diceret hoe esse memoriae proditum, 
nonne iuberetis nominari auctorem, proferri codieem, et locum ab 
interprete fideli exponi antequam crederetis? Nunc de lingua 

■Sybillini; MS. 


even James of Voragine, though as an archbishop disposed to 
favor the clergy, yet in his Acts of the Saints^ preserved silence 
on the Donation of Constantine as fictitious and not fit to figure 
in the Acts of Sylvester ; a conclusive judgment, in a way, against 
those, if there were any, who would have committed it to writing. 

But I want to take the forger himself, truly a "straw" man 
without wheat, by the neck, and drag him into court. What do you 
say, you forger? Whence comes it that we do not read this grant 
in the Acts of Sylvester? This book, forsooth, is rare, difficult to 
get, not owned by the many but rather kept as the Fasti once 
were by the pontifices, or the Sibylline books by the Decemvirs! 
It was written in Greek, or Syriac, or Chaldee! Gelasius testi- 
fies that it was read by many of the orthodox; Voragine mentions 
it; we also have seen thousands of copies of it, and written long 
ago; and in almost every cathedral it is read when Sylvester's 
Day comes around.^ Yet nevertheless no one says that he has 
read there what you put in it; no one has heard of it; no one has 
dreamt of it. Or is there perhaps some other history of Sylvester? 
And what can that be? I know no other, nor do I understand that 
any other is referred to by you, for you speak of the one which 
Gelasius says is read in many churches. In this, however, we do 
not find your grant. But if it is not found in the Life of Sylvester, 
why do you declare that it is? How did you dare to jest in a 
matter of such importance, and to make sport of the cupidity of 
silly men? 

But I am foolish to inveigh against the audacity of this 
[forger], instead of inveighing against the insanity of those who 
give him credence. If any one should say that this had been re- 
corded for remembrance among the _Greeks, the Hebrews, the 
barbarians, would you not bid him name his author, produce his 
book, and the passage, to be explained by a reliable translator, 
before you would believe it? But now your own language, and a 

1 Cf. Voragine, Golden Legend, trans, by Wm. Caxton, rev. by Ellis (London, 

2 December 31. 


vestra, de notissimo codice fit mentio, et vos tam incredibile fac- 
tum aut non inquiritis, aut, cum scriptum non reperiatis, tam 
prona estis credulitate ut pro scripto habeatis atque pro vero. Et 
hoc titulo contenti, terras miscetis et maria, et, quasi nullum subsit 
dubium, eos qui vobis non credunt, terrore bellorum aliisque 
minis prosequimini. Bone lesu, quanta vis, quanta divinitas est 
veritatis, quae per sese sine magno conatu ab omnibus dolis ac 
fallaciis se ipsa defendit, ut non immerito, cum esset apud Darium 
regem exorta contentio quid foret maxime validum et alius aliud 
diceret, tributa sit palma veritati ! 

Quia cum sacerdotibus, non cum saecularibus, mihi res est, 
ecclesiastica magis quam saecularia sunt exempla repetenda. ludas 
Machabaeus, cum dimissis Romam legatis foedus amicitiamque a 
senatu impetrasset, curavit verba foederis in aes incidenda leroso- 
limamque portanda. Taceo de lapideis decalogi tabulis, quas Deus 
Moysi dedit. Ista vero tam magnifica Constantini et tam inaudita 
donatio nullis neque in auro, neque in argento, neque in aere, 
neque in marmore, neque postremo in libris, probari documentis 
potest; sed tantum, si isti credimus, in charta, sive membrana. 
lobal primus musices auctor, ut est apud losephum, cum esset a 
maioribus per manus tradita opinio res humanas semel aqua 
iterum igni delendas, doctrinam suam duabus columnis^ inscripsit, 
lateritia contra ignem, lapidea contra aquas; quae ad losephi 
aevum, ut idem scribit, permansit; ut suum in homines beneficium 
semper exstaret. Et apud Romanos rusticanos^ adhuc et agrestes, 
cum parvae et rarae litterae essent, tamen leges duodecim tabu- 
larum in aes fuere incisae, quae vi^ capta atque incensa a Gallis 
urbe incolumes postea sunt repertae. Adeo duo maxima in rebus 
humanis, diuturnitatem temporis et fortunae violentiam, vincit 

1 coUumnis ; MS. ^ jjuttgn christianos; MS. ^ in; Hutten, Bonneau. 


very well-known book are involved, and either you do not ques- 
tion such an incredible occurrence, or when you do not find it 
written down you have such utter credulity as to believe that it 
is written down and authentic! And, satisfied with this title, you 
move heaven and earth, and, as though no doubt existed, you 
pursue with the terrors of war and with other threats those who 
do not believe you! Blessed Jesus, what power, what divinity 
there is in Truth, which unaided defends itself without any great 
struggle from all falsehoods and deceits ; so that not undeservedly, 
when contention had arisen at the court of king Darius as to what 
was most powerful, and one said one, thing and another another, 
the palm was awarded to Truth.^ 

Since I have to do with priests and not with laymen, I suppose I 
must seek ecclesiastical pte^dents. Judas Maccabaeus, when he 
had sent ambassadors to Rome and obtained a friendly alliance 
from the Senate, took pains to have the terms of the alliance en- 
graved on brass and carried to Jerusalem. I pass by the stone 
tables of the Decalogue, which God gave to Moses. And this 
Donation of Constantine, so magnificent and astounding, cannot 
be proved by any copies, in gold, in silver, in brass, in marble, 
or even in books, but only, if we believe it, on paper, or parch- 
ment. According to Josephus, Jubal, the inventor of music, when 
the elders expressed the opinion that the world was to be de- 
stroyed, once by water, and again by fire, inscribed his teaching 
on two columns, one of brick against the fire, and one of stone 
against the flood, which columns still remained at the time of 
Josephus, as he himself writes, so that his benefaction to men 
might always continue. And among the Romans, while still rustic 
and country bred, when writing was inadequate and rare, the 
laws of the Twelve Tables nevertheless were engraved on brass, 
and though the. city was stormed and burned by the Gauls they 
were afterwards found unharmed. Thus careful foresight over- 
comes the two mightiest forces known to man, namely, long lapse 

1 A reference to the story of the three young men in the bodyguard of Darius ; 
cf. I Esdras iii and iv. 


circumspecta providentia. Constantinus vero orbis terrarum dona- 
tionem papyro^ tantum et atramento signavit, cum praesertim 
machinator fabulae, quisquis ille fuit, faciat Constantinum dicen- 
tem se credere non defore qui donationem banc impia aviditate 
rescinderent! Hoc times, Constantine, et non caves ne ii qui 
Romam Silvestro eriperent chartulam quoque surriperent? * 

Quid ipse Silvester pro se nihil agit? Ita omnia Constantino 
remittit? Ita securus ac segnis est in tanto negotio? Nihil sibi, 
nihil ecclesiae suae, nihil posteritati prospicit? En, cui Imperium 
Romanum administrandum committas,^ qui tam magnae rei tan- 
toque aut lucro aut periculo indormit! Si quidem sublata chartula, 
privilegii donationem utique aetate procedente probare non 

"Paginam privilegii" appellat homo vesanus. Privilegiumne tu 
(libet velut praesentem insectari) vocas donationem orbis terra- 
rum; et hoc in pagina vis esse scriptum; et isto genere orationis 
usum esse Constantinum? Si titulus absurdus est, qualia cetera 
existimemus ? 

"Constantinus Imperator quarto die sui baptismatis privilegium 
Romanae ecclesiae pontifici contulit, ut in toto orbe Romano^ 
sacerdotes ita hunc caput habeant, sicut indices regem." Hoc in 
ipsa Silvestri historia continetur; ex quo dubitari non potest ubi- 
nam scriptum significetur "privilegium." Sed, more eorum qui 
mendacia machinantur, a vero incoepit* ut sequentibus, quae 
falsa sunt, conciliet fidem, ut Sinon apud Virgilium: 

1 papiro ; MS, ^ committis ; Hutten. 

3 in urbe Roma; Hutten. in tota urbe Romana; Bonneau. 

*incipit; Bonneau. 


of time and the violence of fortune. Yet Constantine signed a 
donation of the world on paper alone and with ink, though the 
very inventor of the fabulous story makes him say that he thought 
there would not be lacking those who with unholy greed would 
set aside this Donation! Do you have this fear, Constantine, and 
do you take no precaution lest those who would snatch Rome 
from Sylvester should also steal the charter? 

Why does Sylvester do nothing for himself? Does he leave 
everything thus to Constantine ? Is he so careless and lazy in such 
an important matter? Does he not look ahead at all for himself, 
for his church, for posterity? See to whom you commit the ad- 
ministration of the Roman Empire; in the midst of such an 
important trtmsaction, fraught with so much either of gain or of 
peril, he goes sound asleep! For let the charter ever be lost, he 
will not be able, at least as time goes on, to prove the granting of 
the "privilege."^ — 

"The page of the privilege" this crazy man calls it [i.e., the 
Donation of Constantine]. And do you (let me controvert him as 
though he were present) call the gift of the earth a "privilege"; 
do you want it written thus in the document; and do you want 
Constantine to use that kind of language? If the title is ridiculous, 
what shall we think the rest of it is ? 

"The Emperor Constantine the fourth day after his baptism 
conferred this privilege on the pontiff of the Roman church, that 
in the whole Roman world priests should regard him as their 
head, as judges do the king." This sentence is part of the History 
[Life] of Sylvester,^ and it leaves no doubt where [nor why] the 
document gets its title "privilege." But, in the manner of those 
who fabricate lies, he begins with the truth for the purpose of 
winning confidence in his later statements, which are false, as 
Sinon says in Virgil: 

1 In the following section my translation of the phrases of the Donation is 
harmonized so far as possible with the translation in E. F. Henderson, Select His- 
torical Documents of the Middle Ages. 

2 Cf. Coleman, Constantine the Great and Christianity, p. 224, 11. 8 et seq. 


"Cuncta equidem tibi, rex, fuerint quaectfmque fatebor. 
Vera, inquit, nee me Argolica de gente negabo." 

Hoc primum, deinde falsa subiecit. Ita hoc loco noster Sinon facit, 
qui cum a vero incoepisset, adiecit: 

"In eo privilegio, inter cetera, legitur: 'Utile iudicavimus una 
cum omnibus satrapis nostris et universo senatu, optimatibus 
etiam, et cum cuncto populo imperio Romanae ecclesiae subi- 
acenti ut sicut beatus Petrus in terris vicarius Dei videtur esse 
constitutus, etiam et pontifices ipsius principis apostolorum vicem 
principatus potestatem amplius quam terrenae imperialis nostrae 
serenitatis mansuetudo habere videretur, concessam a nobis nos- 
troque imperio obtineant.' " 

O scelerate atque malefice! Eadem quam affers in testimoniimi 
refert historia, longo tempore neminem senatorii ordinis voluisse 
accipere religionem Christianam, et Constantinum pauperes sol- 
licitasse pretio ad baptismum. Et tu ais intra primos statim dies 
senatum, optimates, satrapes,^ quasi iam Christianos, de hones- 
tanda ecclesia Romana cum Caesare decrevisse! Quid! Quod vis 
interfuisse satrapes? O cautes, O stipes! Sic loquuntur Caesares? 
Sic concipi solent decreta Romana? Quis umquam satrapes in 
consiliis Romanorum nominari audivit? Non teneo memoria um- 
quam legisse me uUum, non modo Romanum, sed ne in Roma- 
norum quidem provinciis satrapem nominatum. At hie Imperatoris 

'^satrapas; Hutten, so throughout. 


"... Whate'er 
My fate ordains, my words shall be sincere : 
I neither can nor dare my birth disclaim; 
Greece is my country, Sinon is my name.'" 

This first; then he put in his lies. So our Sinon does here; for 
when he had begun with the truth, he adds: 

'In this- privilege, among other things, is this; 'We — together 
with all our satraps and the whole Senate and the nobles also, and 
airthe^eople subject to the government of the Roman church^ — 
considered it advisable that, as the blessed Peter is seen to have 
been constituted vicar of God on the earth, so the pontiffs who 
are the representatives of that same chief of the apostles, should 
obtain from us and our Empire the power of a supremacy greater 
than the clemency of our earthly imperial serenity is seen to have 
conceded to it.'" 

thou scoundrel, thou villain! The same history [the Life of 
Sylvester] which you allege as your evidence, says that for a 
long time none of senatorial rank was willing to accept the 
Christian religion, and that Constantine solicited the poor with 
bribes to be baptized. And you say that within the first days, 
immediately, the Senate, the nobles, the satraps, as though already 
Christians, with the Caesar passed decrees for the honoring of the 
Roman church! What! How do you want to have satraps come 
in here? Numskull, blockhead! Do the Caesars speak thus; are 
Roman decrees usually drafted thus? Whoever heard of satraps 
being mentioned in the councils of the Romans?^ I do not re- 
member ever to have read of any Roman satrap being mentioned, 
or even of a satrap in any of the Roman provinces. But this fellow 

1 Virgil, Aeneid, ii, 77-78. Dryden's translation. 

2 The text of the Donation which Valla used, though apparently in a copy of 
Gratian's Decretum extant in his time, differs here and in a number of other places, 
from the texts which we have, whether in Gratian's Decretum, or in the Pseudo- 
Isidorian Decretals. 

^ The word satrap was in fact applied to higher officials at Rome only in the 
middle of the eighth century. Scheffer-Boichorst, MitteUungen des Instituts f. 
osterreichische Geschichtsforschung, x (i88g), p. 315. 


satrapes vocat, eosque senatui praeponit, cum omnes honores, 
etiam qui principi deferuntur, tantum a senatu decernantur, aut 
iuncto^ "populoque Romano." Hinc est quod in lapidibus vetustis 
aut tabulis aereis aut numismatis duas litteras videmus scriptas: 
S. C; id est, "Senatus consulto," vel quattuor:^ S. P. Q. R., hoc 
est, "Senatus populusque Romanus." Et, ut Tertullianus meminit, 
cum Pontius Pilatus de admirandis Christi actionibus ad Tiberium 
Caesarem, non ad senatum, scripsisset, siquidem ad senatum scri- 
bere de magnis rebus magistratus consueverant, senatus banc rem 
indigne tulit, Tiberioque praerogativam ferenti ut lesus pro deo 
coleretur repugnavit, ob tacitam tantummodo indignationem 
offensae senatoriae dignitatis. Et ut scias quantum senatus valeat 
auctoritas, ne pro deo coleretur obtinuit. 

Quid! Quod ais optimates? Quos aut primarios in republica 
viros intelligimus, qui cur nominentur^ cum de ceteris magistrati- 
bus silentium sit? aut eos qui popular es non sunt, benevolentiam 
populi aucupantes, sed optimi cuiusque et bonarum partium stu- 
diosi ac defensores, ut Cicero quadam oratione demonstrat? 
Ideoque Caesarem ante oppressam rempublicam popularem fuisse 
dicimus, Catonem ex optimatibus, quorum differentiam Sallustius 
explicavit. Neque hi optimates magisquam populares aut ceteri 
boni viri dicuntur in consilio adhiberi. 

Sed quid mirum si adhibentur optimates, ubi cunctus populus, 
si homini credimus, cum senatu et Caesare iudicavit, et is quidem 
Romanae ecclesiae subiacens! Et quis iste est populus? Roma- 

1 adiuncto (instead of aut iuncto) ; Hutten, Bonneau. 

2 quatuor ; MS., so throughout, 
^nominantur; Hutten. 


speaks of the Emperor's satraps, and puts them in before the 
Senate, though all honors, even those bestowed upon the ruling 
\ \ prince, are decreed by the Senate alone, or with the addition "and 
the Roman people." Thus we see carved on ancient stones or 
■Bronze tablets or coins two letters, "S. C," that is "By decree of 
the Senate," or four, "S. P. Q. R.," that is, "The Senate and the 
Roman People." And according to TertuUian, when Pontius 
Pilate had written to Tiberius Caesar and not to the Senate con- 
cerning the wonderful deeds of Christ, inasmuch as magistrates 
were supposed to write concerning important matters to the 
Senate, the Senate gave way to spite and opposed Tiberius' pro- 
posal that Jesus be worshipped as a God, merely on account of its 
secret anger at the offense to senatorial dignity.^ And, to show how 
weighty was the authority of the Senate, Jesus did not obtain 
divine worship. —1 

What now! Why do you say "nobles" ["optimates"] ? Are we ! 
to understand that these are leading men in the republic; then 
why should they be mentioned when the other magistrates are 
passed by in silence? Or are they the opposite of the "popular" 
party which curries favor with the people ; the ones who seek and 
champion the welfare of every aristocrat and of the "better" ele- 
ments, as Cicero shows in one of his orations ? Thus we say that 
Caesar before the overthrow of the republic had been a member of 
the "popular" party, Cato of the "optimates." The difference 
between them Sallust explained. But the "optimates" are not 
spoken of as belonging to the [Emperor's] council, any more than, 
the "popular" party, or other respectable men are. - ' 

But what wonder that the "optimates" belonged to the council, 
when, if we believe this fellow, "all the people," and the people 
"subject to the Roman church" at that, acted officially with the 
Senate and the Caesar!^ And what people are these? The Roman 

1 TertuUian tells this apocryphal story in his Apology, chaps. S and 21. For a 
translation of letters alleged to have been written to Tiberius by Pilate, see Nicene 
and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff (New York, iSgo-iSg?), vol. VIII, 
pp. 459-463. 

2 Valla's argument in this paragraph is partly based on the defective text of 
the Donation which he used, cf. supra, p. 85, note 2. Zeumer's text would be 


nusne? At cur non dicitur populus Romanus potiusquam populus 
subiacens? Quae nova ista contumelia est in Quirites, de quibus 
optimi poetae elogium est: 

"Tu re'gere imperio populos, Romane, memento?" 

Qui regit alios populos/ ipse vocatur populus subiacens, quod 
inauditum est. Nam in hoc, ut in multis epistolig Gregorius testa- 
tur, differt Romanus princeps^ a ceteris, quod solus est princeps 
liberi populi. Ceterum ita sit ut vis. Nonne et alii populi subiacent? 
An alios quoque significas ? Quomodo fieri istud triduo poterat, ut 
omnes populi subiacentes imperio Romanae ecclesiae illi decreto 
adessent? Tametsi num^ omnis faex populi iudicabat? Quid! 
Antequam subiecisset Romano pontifici populum Constantinus 
subiectum vocaret? Quid! Quod ii* qui subiacentes vocantur 
faciendo dicuntur praefuisse decreto? Quid! Quod hoc ipsum 
dicuntur decrevisse, ut sint subiacentes et ut ille cui subiacent hos 
habeat subiacentes? Quid agis aliud, infelix,^ nisi ut indices te 
voluntatem f allendi habere, facultatem non habere ? 

"Eligentes nobis ipsum principem apostolorum, vel eius 
vicarios, firmos apud Deum esse patronos. Et sicut nostra est 
terrena imperialis potentia, ita eius sacrosanctam Romanam 
ecclesiam decrevimus veneranter honorare, et amplius quam 
nostrum imperium terrenumque thronum, sedem sacratissimam 
beati Petri gloriose exaltari," tribuentes ei potestatem et gloriam 
et dignitatem, atque vigorem et honorificentiam imperialem." 

Revivisce paulisper, Firmiane' Lactanti, resisteque huic asino 
tam vaste immaniterque rudenti. Ita verborum turgentium strepitu 
delectatur, ut eadem repetat et inculcet quae modo dixerat. 

1 Bonneau omits Romane . . . populos. 
^pontifex; Hutten, Bonneau. ^non; Hutten, Bonneau. 

^hi; Hutten, Bonneau. ^infaelix; MS., so throughout. 

« exaltare ; Hutten. Tormiane; MS. 


people? But why not say the Roman people, rather than the 
"people subject"? What new insult is this to the Quirites of whom 
the great poet sings : 

"Do thou, O Roman, take care to rule the peoples with imperial 

Can those who rule other peoples, themselves be called a subject 
people? It is preposterous! For in this, as Gregory in many letters 
testifies, the Roman ruler differs from the others, that he alone is 
ruler of a free people. But be this as it may. Are not other peoples 
also subject? Or do you mean others also? How could it be 
brought to pass in three days that all the people subject to the 
government of the Roman church gave assent to that decree? 
Though did every Tom, Dick, and Harry give his judgment? 
What! would Constantine, before he had subjected the people 
to the Roman pontiff, call them subject? How is it that those 
who are called subjects are said to have been in authority in the 
making of the decree ? How is it that they are said to have decreed 
this very thing, that they should be subject and that he to whom 
they are already subject should have them as his subjects? What 
else do you do, you wretch, other than admit that you have the 
will to commit forgery, but not the ability? 

"Choosing that same prince of the apostles, or his vicars, to 
be our constant intercessors with God. [ And, to the extent of our 
earthly imperial power, we have decreed that his holy Roman 
church shall be honored with veneration : and that more than our 
empire and earthly throne, the most sacred seat of the blessed 
Peter shall be gloriously exalted; we giving to it power and glory, 
and dignity, and vigor and honor imperial." 

Come back to life for a little while, Firmianus Lactantius, stop 
this ass who brays so loudly and outrageously. So delighted is he 
with the sound of swelling words, that he repeats the same terms 

translated, "all the Roman people who are subject to the glory of our rule," and 
Friedberg's, "all the people subject to the glorious rule of Rome." 
1 Virgil, Aeneid, vi, 852. 


Hiincne in modum aevo tuo loquebantur Caesarum scribae, ne 
dicam agasones? Elegit sibi illos Constantinus non patronos, sed 
"esse patronos." Interposuit illud "esse" ut numerum redderet 
concinniorem. Honesta ratio! Barbare loqui ut venustius currat 
oratio, si modo quid in tanta scabritia venustum esse potest! "Eli- 
gentes principem apostolorum, vel eius vicarios." Non eligis^ 
Petrum et eius deinceps vicarios, sed aut hunc exclusis illis, aut 
illos hoc excluso. Et pontifices Romanos appellat vicarios Petri, 
quasi vel vivat Petrus, vel minori dignitate sint ceteri quam Petrus 
fuit. Nonne et illud barbarum est; "a nobis nostroque imperio?" 
Quasi imperium habeat animum concedendi et potestatem! Nee 
fuit contentus dicere "obtineant," nisi etiam diceret "concessam," 
cum satis alterum esset. Et illud "firmos patronos," perquam 
elegans est! Scilicet firmos vult ne pecunia corrumpantur aut metu 
labantur. Et illud "terrena imperialis potentia"; duo adiectiva 
sine copula! Et illud "veneranter honorare," et illud "nostrae 
imperialis serenitatis mansuetudo!" Lactantianam eloquentiam 
redolet, cum de potentia agatur imperii, serenitatem nominare et 
mansuetudinem, non amplitudinem et maiestatem. Quod etiam 
tumida superbia inflatum est, ut in illo quoque, "gloriose exaltari"^ 
per "gloriam et potestatem et dignitatem, et vigorem et honorifi- 
centiam imperialem"! quod ex Apocalypsi sumptum videtur, ubi 
dicitur: "Dignus est agnus qui occisus est, accipere virtutem et 
divinitatem'' et sapientiam et fortitudinem et honorem et bene- 
dictionem." Frequenter, ut posterius liquebit, titulos Dei sibi 

^elegis; Hutten, Bonneau. ^exaltare; Hutten. 

^ dignitatem ; Hutten. 


and reiterates what he has just said. Is it thus that in your age 
the secretaries of the Caesars spoke, or even their grooms? Con- 
stantine chose them not "as his intercessors" but "to be his inter- 
cessors." The fellow inserted that "to be" [esse] so as to get 
a more elegant rhythm. A fine reason! To speak barbarously so 
that your speech may run along more gracefully, as if indeed, 
anything can be graceful in such filthiness. "Choosing the prince 
of the apostles, or his vicars": you do not choose Peter, and then 
his vicars, but either him, excluding them, or them, excluding 
him.^ And he calls the Roman pontiffs "vicars" of Peter, either 
as though Peter were living, or as though they were of lower rank 
than was Peter. And is not this barbarous; "from us and our 
empire"?^ As if the empire had a mind to give grants, and power! 
Nor was he content to say "should obtain," without also saying 
"conceded," though either one would have sufficed. And that "con- 
stant intercessors,"^ is very elegant indeed! Doubtless he wants 
them "constant" so that they may not be corrupted by money 
nor moved by fear. And "earthly imperial power" ; two adjectives 
without a conjunction. And "be honored with veneration": and 
"clemency of our imperial serenity";^ it smacks of Lactantian elo- 
quence to speak of "serenity" and "clemency," instead of 
grandeur and majesty, when the power of the Empire is con- 
cerned! And how inflated he is with puffed-up pride; as in that 
phrase "gloriously exalted" by "glory, and power, and dignity, 
and vigor, and imperial honor"! This seems to be taken from the 
Apocalypse, where it says, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, 
to receive power, and divinity and wisdom, and strength, and 
honor and blessing."* Frequently, as will be shown later, Con- 
stantine is made to arrogate to himself the titles of God, and to try 

1 The conjunction "seu" in classical Latin meant, as Valla insists, "or" ; in the 
eighth century it was often used with the meaning "and." The forger of the 
Donation used it in the latter sense. Valla did not see the significance of this usage 
for dating the forgery. 

2 Cf. supra, p. 8S, note 2. 

^ "firmos patronos," — this use of "firmus" characterizes the style of Pope Paul I 
(757^767). See Scheffer-Boichorst, op. cit., p. 311. 
* Rev. V, 12 ; with variations. 


arrogare fingitur Constantinus, et imitari velle sermonem sacrae 
Scripturae, quem numquam legerat. 

"Atque decernentes sancimus, ut principatum teneat, tarn super 
quatuor sedes Alexandrinam, Antiochenam, lerosolimitanam, 
Constantinopolitanam, quam etiam super omnes in universe orbe 
terrarum Dei ecclesias; etiam pontifex, qui per tempora ipsius 
sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae extiterit, celsior et princeps 
cunctis sacerdotibus et totius mundi existat, et eius iudicio, quae 
ad cultum Dei et iidem Christianorum vel stabilitatem procuran- 
dam fuerint, disponantur."^ 

Omitto hie barbariem sermonis, quod "princeps sacerdotibus" 
pro "sacerdotum" dixit, et quod in eodem loco posuit "extiterit" et 
"existat," et, cum dixerit "in universo orbe terrarum," iterum 
addit "totius mundi," quasi quiddam diversum, aut caelum, quae 
mundi pars est, complecti velit, cum bona pars orbis terrarum 
sub Roma non esset, et quod "fidem Christianorum," "vel stabili- 
tatem procurandam," tamquam non possent simul esse, distinxit, 
et quod "decernere" et "sancire" miscuit, et veluti prius cum 
ceteris Constantinus non iudicasset, decernere eum et, tamquam 
poenam proponat, sancire, et quidem ima cum populo sancire facit. 
Quis hoc Christianus pati queat, et non papam, qui hoc patitur 
ac libens audit et recitat, censorie severeque castiget, quod, cum a 
Christo primatum acceperit Romana sedes et id, Gratiano testante 
multisque Graecorum, octava synodus declararit, accepisse dicatur 

' Hutten, Bonneau. disponatur; MS. error. 


to imitate the language of the sacred scriptures, which he had 
never read. 

"And we ordain and decree that he shall have the supremacy 
as well over the four seats, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and 
Constantinople, as also over all the churches of God in the whole 
earth. And the pontiff also, who at the time shall be at the head 
of the holy Roman church itself, shall be more exalted than, and 
chief over, all the priests of the whole world; and, according to 
his judgment everything which is to be provided for the service 
of God, and for the faith or the stability of the Christians is to be 
administered." ■ — 

I will not speak here of the barbarisms in [the forger's] lan- 
guage when he says "chief over the priests" instead of chief of the 
priests; when he puts in the same sentence "extiterit" and "ex- 
istat" [confusing meanings, moods and tenses] ; when, having 
said "in the whole earth," he adds again "of the whole world," 
as though he wished to include something else, or the sky, which 
is part of the world, though a good part of the earth even was not 
under Rome; when he distinguishes between providing for "the 
faith" of Christians and providing for their "stability," as though 
they could not coexist;^ when he confuses "ordain" and "decree," 
and when, as though Constantine had not already joined with the 
rest in making the decree, he has him now ordain it, and as 
though he imposes a punishment, decree [confirm] it, and con- 
firm it together with the people. [That, I pass by.] But what 
Christian could endure this [other thing], and not, rather, criti- 
cally and severely reprove a Pope who endures it, and listens to 
it willingly and retails it; namely, that the Roman See, though it 
received its primacy from Christ, as the Eighth Synod declared 
according to the testimony of Gratian and many of the Greeks, 

1 Part of this criticism rests upon the peculiarities of the text of the Donation 
which Valla used. 


a Constantino vix dum Christiano tamquam a Christo? Hoc ille 
modestissimus princeps dicere, hoc piissimus pontifex audire vo- 
luisset? Absit tain grave ab utroque illorum nefas! 

Quid, quod multo est absurdius, capitne rerum natura, ut quis 
de Constantinopoli loqueretur tamquam una patriarchalium 
sedium, quae nondum esset nee patriarchalis, nee sedes, nee urbs 
Christiana, nee sie nominata, nee eondita, nee ad condendum de- 
stinata? Quippe privilegium eoneessum est triduo quod Con- 
stantinus esset effeetus Christianus, cum Byzantium' adhue erat, 
non Constantinopolis. Mentior nisi hoc quoque confiteatur^ hie 
stolidus. Scribit enim prope calcem privilegii: 

"Unde eongruum prospeximus, nostrum imperium et regiam 
potestatem orientalibus transferri regionibus, et in Byzantiae pro- 
vinciae optimo loco nomini nostro civitatem aedificari, et illic 
nostrum constitui imperium." 

Si ille transferre volebat alio imperium, nondum transtulerat. 
Si illie volebat eonstituere imperium, nondum eonstituerat. Si sie 
volebat aedificare urbem, nondum aedifieaverat. Non ergo feeisset 
mentionem de patriarehali, de una quattuor sedium, de Christiana, 
de sic nominata, de eondita; de qua condenda, ut historiae placet 
quam Palea in testimonium affert, ne cogitarat quidem. A qua' 
non videt haec belua, sive is Palea sit, sive alius quern Palea 
sequitur, se dissentire, ubi Constantinus, non sua sponte, sed inter 
quietem admonitu Dei, non Romae, sed Byzantii, non intra paucos 
dies, sed post aliquot annos, dicitur decrevisse de urbe condenda, 
nomenque quod in somnis edoetus fuerat indidisse. Quis ergo non 

1 Bizantium ; MS., so in many places. 

2 Hut ten, Bonneau. confitentur; MS. error. 
^Atqui; Hutten. Atque; Bonneau. 


should be represented as having received it from Constantine, 
hardly yet a Christian, as though from Christ? Would that very 
modest ruler have chosen to make such a statement, and that most 
devout pontiff to listen to it? Far be such a grave wrong from 
both of them! 

How in the world — this is much more absurd, and impossible 
in the nature of things — could one speak of Constantinople as 
one of the patriarchal sees, when it was not yet a patriarchate, 
nor a see, nor a Christian city, nor named Constantinople, nor 
founded, nor planned! For the "privilege" was granted, so it says, 
the third day after Constantine became a Christian; when as yet 
Byzantium, not Constantinople, occupied that site. I am a liar if 
this fool does not confess as much himself. For toward the end 
of the "privilege" he writes: 

"Wherefore we have perceived it to be fitting that our empire 
and our royal power should be transferred in the regions of the 
East; and that in the province of Bizantia [sic], in the most 
fitting place, a city should be built in our name; and that our 
empire should there be established." 

But if he was intending to transfer the empire, he had not yet 
transferred it; if he was intending to establish his empire there, 
he had not yet established it; if he was planning to build a city, 
he had- not yet built it. Therefore he could not have spoken of it 
as a patriarchal see, as one of the four sees, as Christian, as 
having this name, nor as already built. According to the history 
[the Life of Sylvester] which Palea cites as evidence, he had not 
yet even thought of founding it. And this beast, whether Palea 
or some one else whom Palea follows, does not notice that he con- 
tradicts this history, in which it is said that Constantine issued the 
decree concerning the founding of the city, not on his own initia- 
tive, but at a command received in his sleep from God, not at 
Rome but at Byzantium, not within a few days [of his conver- 
sion] but several years after, and that he learned its name by 
revelation in a dream.^ Who then does not see that the man who 

^ Cf. Coleman, Constantine the Great and Christianity, pp. 148-151, 161-164. 


videt, qui privilegium composuit, eum diu post tempora Constan- 
tini fuisse, et, cum vellet adornare mendacium, excidisse sibi quod 
ante dixisset haec gesta esse Romae tertio die quam ille fuisset 
baptizatus : ut in eum decentissime cadat tritum vetustate prover- 
bium, "Mendaces memores esse oportere"? 

Quid, quod Byzantiam provinciam vocat quod erat oppidum 
nomine^ Byzantium? Locus haudquaquam capax tantae urbis con- 
dendae: namque muris complexa est Constantinopolis vetus 
Byzantium! Et hie in eius optimo loco ait urbem esse condendam! 
Quid, quod Thraciam,^ ubi positum erat Byzantium, vult esse in 
oriente, quae vergit ad Aquilonem! Opinor ignorabat Constan- 
tinus locum quem condendae urbi delegerat, sub quo caelo esset, 
urbsque an provincia, quanta eius mensura foret! 

"Ecclesiis beatorum apostolorum Petri et Pauli pro continua- 
tione luminariorum possessionum praedia contulimus, et rebus 
diversis eas ditavimus, et per nostram imperialem iussionem 
sacram tam in oriente quam in occidente quam etiam a septen- 
trione et meridionali plaga, videlicet in ludaea, Graecia, Asia, 
Thracia, Africa, et Italia, vel diversis insulis, nostra largitate eis 
concessimus, ea prorsus ratione, ut per manus beatissimi patris 
nostri Silvestri summi pontificis successorumque eius omnia dis- 

O furcifer! Ecclesiaene, id est templa, Romae erant Petro et 
Paulo dicatae? Quis eas exstruxerat ?^ Quis aedificare ausus fuisset 
cum nusquam foret, ut historia ait, Christianis locus nisi secreta 
et latebrae? Aut si qua templa Romae fuissent illis dicata aposto- 
lis, non erant digna in quibus tanta luminaria accenderentur; aedi- 
culae sacrae, non aedes; sacella, non templa; oratoria inter 
privatos parietes, non publica delubra. Non ergo ante cura gerenda 
erat de luminaribus templorum, quam de ipsis templis. 

1 Hutten omits Byzantiam . . . nomine. 

^Trachia; MS., so throughout. ^extruxerat; MS. 


wrote the "privilege" lived long after the time of Constantine, and 
in his effort to embellish his falsehood forgot that earlier he had 
said that these events took place at Rome on the third day after 
Constantine was baptized? So the trite old proverb applies nicely 
to him, "Liars need good memories." 

And how is it that he speaks of a province of "Byzantia," when 
it was a town, Byzantium by name? The place was by no means 
large enough for the erection of so great a city; for the old city 
of Byzantium was included within the walls of Constantinople. 
And this man says the [new] city is to be built on the most fitting 
place in it! Why does he choose to put Thrace, in which Byzan- 
tium lies, in the East, when it lies to the north? I suppose Con- 
stantine did not know the place which he had chosen for the 
building of the city, in what latitude it was, whether it was a 
town or a province, nor how large it was ! 

"On the churches of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, for 
the providing of the lights, we have conferred landed estates of 
possessions, and have enriched them with different objects; and 
through our sacred imperial mandate, we have granted them of 
our property in the east as well as in the west; and even in the 
north and in the southern quarter; namely, in Judea, Greece, 
Asia, Thrace, Africa and Italy and the various islands; under 
this condition indeed, that all shall be administered by the hand 
of our most blessed father the supreme pontiff, Sylvester, and his 

O you scoundrel! Were there in Rome churches, that is, 
temples, dedicated to Peter and Paul? Who had constructed them? 
Who would have dared to build them, when, as history tells us, 
the Christians had never had anything but secret and secluded 
meeting-places? And if there had been any temples at Rome 
dedicated to these apostles, they would not have called for such 
great lights as these to be set up in them; they were little chapels, 
not sanctuaries; little shrines, not temples; oratories in private 
houses, not public places of worship. So there was no need to care 
for the temple lights, before the temples themselves were provided. 


Quid ais tu, qui facis Constantinum dicentem Petrum et Paulum 
beatos, Silvestrum vero cum adhuc vivit beatissimum, et suam 
qui paulo ante fuisset ethnicus iussionem sacram? Tantane con- 
f erenda sunt pro luminaribus continuandis, ut totus orbis terrarum 
fatigetur? At quae ista praedia sunt, praesertim "possessionum"? 
Praediorum possessiones dicere solemus, non "possessionum prae- 
dia." Das praedia, nee quae praedia explicas. Ditasti diversis 
rebus, nee quando, nee quibus rebus ostendis. Vis plagas orbis a 
Silvestro disponi, nee pandis quo genere disponendi. Coneessisti 
haee antea? Cur te hodie ineoepisse significas honorare eeelesiam 
Romanam et ei privilegium eoneedere? Hodie coneedis; hodie 
ditas? Cur dieis "eoneessimus" et "ditavimus"? Quid loqueris, 
aut quid sentis, bestia? Cum fabulae maehinatore mihi sermo est, 
non cum optimo prineipe Constantino. 

Sed quid in te ullam prudentiam, ullam doctrinam requiro, qui 
nullo ingenio, nulla litteratura es praeditus; qui ais "luminario- 
rum" pro luminarium, et "orientalibus transferri regionibus" pro 
eo quod est ad orien tales transferri regiones? Quid porro? Istaene 
sunt quattuor plagae? Quam orien talem numeras? Thraeiamne? 
At, ut dixi, vergit ad septentrionem. An ludaeam? At magis ad 
meridiem speetat, utpote vicina Aegypto. Quam item occiden- 
talem? Italiamne? At haee in Italia gerebantur, quam nemo illic 
agens oceiden talem vocat; cum Hispanias dieamus esse in oeci- 
dente; et Italia hine ad meridiem illine ad areton magisquam ad 
oecidentem vergit. Quam septentrionalem? An Thraeiam? At ipse 
ad orientem esse vis. An Asiam? At haee sola totum possidet orien- 
tem, septentrionem vero communem^ cum Europa. Quam meri- 
dionalem? Certe Afrieam. At cur non aliquam nominatim 
provineiam proferebas? Nisi forte Aethiopes Romano imperio 

^ comunem ; MS. 


And what is this that you say? You make Constantine call 
Peter and Paul blessed, but Sylvester, still living, "most blessed"; 
and call his own mandate, pagan as he had been but a little while 
before, "sacred"! Is so much to be donated "for the providing of 
the lights" that the whole world would be impoverished? And 
what are these "landed estates," particularly "landed estates of 
possessions"? The phrase "possessions of landed estates" is good 
usage; "landed estates of possessions" is not. You give landed 
estates, and you do not explain which landed estates. You have 
enriched "with different objects," and you do not show when nor 
with what objects. You want the corners of the earth to be ad- 
ministered by Sylvester, and you do not explain how they are to 
be administered. You say these were granted earlier? Then why 
do you say that you have now begun to honor the Roman church, 
and to grant it a "privilege"? Do you make the grant now; do 
you enrich it now? Then why do you say "we have granted" and 
"we have enriched"? What are you talking about; what is in your 
mind, you beast? (I am speaking to the man who made up the 
story, not to that most excellent ruler, Constantine.) 

But why do I ask for any intelligence in you, any learning, you 
who are not endowed with any ability, with any knowledge of 
letters, who say "lights" for lamps, and "be transferred in the 
regions of the east" instead of "be transferred to the regions of 
the east," as it should be? And what next? Are these "quarters" 
of yours really the four quarters of the world? What do you count 
as eastern? Thrace? It lies to the north, as I have said. Judea? 
It looks rather toward the south, for it is next to Egypt. And 
what do you count as western? Italy? But these events occurred in 
Italy and no one living there calls it western; for we say the 
Spains are in the west; and Italy extends, on one hand to the 
south and on the other to the north, rather than to the west. What 
do you count as north? Thrace? You yourself choose to put it in 
the east. Asia? This alone includes the whole east, but it includes 
the north also, like Europe. What do you count as southern? 
Africa, of course. But why do you not specify some province? 
Perhaps you think even the Ethiopians were subject to the Roman 


suberant. Et nihilominus non habent locum Asia et Africa cum 
orbem terrarum in quattuor dividimus partes et nominatim re- 
giones singularum referimus, sed cum in tres, Asiam, Africam, 
Europam; nisi Asiam pro Asiatica provincia, Africam pro ea 
provincia quae prope Gaetulos^ est, appellas, quae non video cur 
praecipue nominentur.^ 

Sicine^ locutus esset Constantinus, cum quattuor orbis plagas 
exsequitur,* ut has regiones nominaret, ceteras non nominaret; et 
a ludaea inciperet, quae pars Syriae numeratur et quae amplius 
ludaea non erat, eversa Hierosolima, fugatis et prope exstinctis' 
ludaeis, ita ut credam vix aliquem in sua tunc patria remansisse, 
sed alias habitasse nationes? Ubi tandem erat ludaea, quae nee 
ludaea amplius vocabatur, ut hodie videmus illud terrae nomen 
exstinctum ? Et sicut exterminatis Chananeis Chananea regio desiit 
appellari, commutato nomine in ludaeam a novis incolis, ita ex- 
terminatis ludaeis et convenis gentibus eam incolentibus desierat 
ludaea nominari. 

Nuncupas ludaeam, Thraciam, insulas; Hispanias vero, Gallias, 
Germanos non putas nuncupandos, et cum de aliis Unguis loquaris, 
Hebraea, Graeca, barbara, de ulla provinciarum Latino sermone 
utentium non loqueris. Video: has tu ideo" omisisti, ut postea in 
donatione complectereris. Et quid non tanti erant tot provinciae 
occidentis, ut continuandis luminaribus suppeditarent sumptus, 
nisi reliquus orbis adiuvaret? 

Transeo quod haec concedi ais per largitatem; non ergo, ut isti 
aiunt, ob leprae curationem. Alioquin insolens sit, quisquis re- 
munerationem loco munerum ponit. 

"Beato Silvestro eius vicario de praesenti tradimus palatium 
imperii nostri Lateranense, deinde diadema, videlicet coronam 
capitis nostri, simulque phrygium, nee non et superhumerale, vide- 
licet lorum quod imperiale circumdare^ solet coUum, verum etiam 

'^ Getulos ; MS. ^ Hutten. nominetur ; MS. 

'Siccine; MS. *exequitur; MS., so throughout. 

''extinctis; MS., so throughout. 

' igitur, instead of tu ideo; Hutten. te omnino omisisse; Bonneau. 

' circundare ; MS. 


Empire! And anyway Asia and Africa do not come into con- 
sideration when we divide the earth into four parts and enumerate 
the countries of each, but when we divide it into three, Asia, 
Africa, Europe; that is, unless you say Asia for the province of 
Asia, and Africa for that province which is next to the Gaetuli, 
and I do not see why they, especially, should be mentioned. 

Would Constantine have spoken thus when he was de- 
scribing the four quarters of the earth ? Would he have mentioned 
these countries, and not others? Would he have begun with Judea, 
which is counted as a part of Syria and was no longer "Judea" 
after the destruction of Jerusalem (for the Jews were driven away 
and almost exterminq,ted, so that, I suppose, scarcely one then 
remained in his own country, but they lived among other na- 
tions) ? Where then was Judea? It was no longer called Judea, and 
we know that now that name has perished from the earth. Just as 
after the driving out of the Canaanites the region ceased to be 
called Canaan and was renamed Judea by its new inhabitants, so 
when the Jews were driven out and mixed tribes inhabited it, it 
ceased to be called Judea. 

You mention Judea, Thrace, and the islands, but you do not 
think of mentioning the Spains, the Gauls, the Germans, and while 
you speak of peoples of other tongues, Hebrew, Greek, barbarian, 
you do not speak of any of the provinces where Latin is used. 
I see: you have omitted these for the purpose of including them 
afterwards in the Donation. And why were not these many great 
provinces of the East sufficient to bear the expense of providing 
the lights without the rest of the world contributing ! 

I pass over the fact that you say these are granted as a gift, and 
therefore not, as our friends say, in payment for the cure of the 
leprosy. Otherwise, — well, any one who classes a gift as a payment 
is ill-bred. 

"To the blessed Sylvester, his [Peter's] vicar, we by this 
present do give our imperial Lateran palace, then the diadem, 
that is, the crown of our head, and at the same time the tiara and 
also the shoulder-band, — that is, the strap that usually surrounds 


chlamydem^ purpuream, atque tunicam coccineam, et omnia im- 
perialia indumenta, seu etiam dignitatem imperialium praesiden- 
tium equitum; conferentes etiam ei imperialia sceptra, simulque 
cuncta signa atque banna et diversa ornamenta imperialia, et 
omnem processionem imperialis culminis, et gloriam potestatis 

"Viris etiam diversi ordinis reverendissimis^ clericis sanctae 
Romanae ecclesiae servientibus, illud culmen singularis potentiae 
et praecellentiae habere sancimus, cuius amplissimus noster sena- 
tus videtur gloria adornari, id est patricios,^ consules effici. Nee 
non in ceteris dignitatibus imperialibus eos promulgavimus deco- 
rari. Et sicut imperialis extat decorata militia, ita clerum sanctae 
Romanae ecclesiae adornari decrevimus. Et quemadmodum im- 
perialis potentia diversis officiis, cubiculariorum nempe et ostiari- 
orum* atque omnium concubitorum ordinatur,^ ita et sanctam 
Romanam ecclesiam decorari volumus. Et ut amplissime ponti- 
ficale decus praefulgeat, decernimus^ et ut clerici sancti eiusdem 
sanctae Romanae ecclesiae mappulis et linteaminibus, id est candi- 
dissimo colore decoratos equos equitent, et sicut noster senatus 
calciamentis utitur cum udonibus, id est candido linteamine illus- 
trentur, et ita caelestia sicut terrena ad laudem Dei decorentur." 

O sancte lesu! Ad hunc sententias volventem sermonibus im- 
peritis non respondebis de turbine? Non tonabis? Non in tantam 
blasphemiam' ultricia fulmina iaculabere? Tantumne probrum in 
tua familia sustines? Hoc audire, hoc videre, hoc tamdiu conni- 
ventibus oculis praeterire potes? Sed patiens^ es, et multae miseri- 
cordiae. Vereor tamen ne patientia haec tua sit potius ira et 
condemnatio, qualis in illos fuit, de quibus dixisti: "Et dimisi eos 
secundum desiderium cordis eorum, ibunt in adinventionibus suis," 

1 Hutten. clamydem ; MS. ^ revendissimis ; MS., an error. 

3 patritios; MS. * Hutten. hostiariorum; MS. 

° adornatur ; Hutten. ^ decrevimus ; Hutten. 

^ blasfemiam; MS. ^ paciens; MS., so throughout. 


our imperial neck; and also the purple mantle and scarlet tunic, 
and all the imperial raiment; and the same rank as those presiding 
over the imperial cavalry; conferring also on him the imperial 
scepters, and at the same time all the standards and banners and 
the different imperial ornaments, and all the pomp of our imperial 
eminence, and the glory of our power. 

"And we decree also, as to these men of different rank, the most 
reverend clergy who serve the holy Roman church, that they have 
that same eminence of distinguished power and excellence, by the 
glory of which it seems proper for our most illustrious Senate to 
be adorned; that is, that they be made patricians, consuls, — and 
also we have proclaimed that they be decorated with the other 
imperial dignities. And even as the imperial militia stands deco- 
rated, so we have decreed that the clergy of the holy Roman 
church be adorned. And even as the imperial power is ordered 
with different offices, of chamberlains, indeed, and door-keepers 
and all the bed-watchers, so we wish the holy Roman church also 
to be decorated. And, in order that the pontifical glory may shine 
forth most fully, we decree also that the holy clergy of this same 
holy Roman church may mount mounts adorned with saddle- 
cloths and linens, that is, of the whitest color; and even as our 
Senate uses shoes with felt socks, that is, they [the clergy] may 
be distinguished by white linen, and that the celestial [orders] 
may be adorned to the glory of God, just as the terrestrial are 

O holy Jesus! This fellow, tumbling phrases about in his 
ignorant talk, — will you not answer him from a whirlwind? Will 
you not send the thunder ? Will you not hurl avenging lightnings 
at such great blasphemy? Will you endure such wickedness in 
your household? Can you hear this, see this, let it go on so long 
and overlook it? But you are long-suffering and full of compas- 
sion. Yet I fear lest this your long-suffering may rather be wrath 
and condemnation, such as it was against those of whom you said, 
"So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked 


et alibi: "Tradidi eos in reprobum sensum,,ut faciant quae non 
conveniunt, quia non probaverunt se habere notitiam mei." lube 
me, quaeso, Domine, ut exclamem adversus eos, et forte conver- 

O Romani pontifices, exemplum facinorum omnium ceteris 
pontificibus ! O improbissimi scribae et Pharisaei,^ qui sedetis 
super cathedram Moysi, et opera Dathan et Abiron f acitis ! Itane 
vestimenta, apparatus, pompa, equitatus, omnis denique vita 
Caesaris vicarium Christi decebit ? Quae communicatio sacerdotis 
ad Caesarem? Istane Silvester vestimenta sibi induit? Eo apparatu 
incessit? Ea celebritate ministrantium domi vixit atque regnavit? 
Sceleratissimi homines non intelligunt Silvestro magis vestes 
Aaron, qui summus Dei sacerdos fuerat, quam gentilis principis 
fuisse sumendas. f. 

Sed haec alias erunt exagitanda vehementius. Impraesentiarum 
autem de barbarismo cum' hoc sycophanta loquamur, cuius ex 
stultiloquio impudentissimum eius patescit* sua sponte mendacium. 

"Tradimus," inquit, "palatium imperii nostri Lateranense" ; 
quasi male hoc loco inter ornamenta donum palatii posuisset, 
iterum postea ubi de donis agitur replicavit. "Deinde diadema"; 
et quasi illi non videant qui adsunt, interpretatur ; "videlicet coro- 
nam." Verum hie non addidit "ex auro," sed posterius easdem res 
inculcans inquit; "ex auro purissimo et gemmis preciosis." Igno- 
ravit homo imperitus diadema e panno esse aut fortassis ex serico; 
unde sapiens illud regis dictum celebrari solet, quem ferunt tradi- 
tum sibi diadema priusquam capiti imponeret retentum diu con- 
siderasse ac dixisse: "O nobilem m^gisquam felicem pannum! 
Quem si quis penitus agnosceret,^ quam multis sollicitudinibus° 
periculisque et miseriis sis refertus, ne humi quidem iacentem 

1 convertentur ; Hutten, Bonneau. ^Pharisei; MS. 

^ Hutten, Bonneau. Omit cum ; MS. * patescet ; MS. 
^ cognosceret ; Hutten, Bonneau. * solicitudinibus ; MS. 


in their own counsels,"^ and elsewhere, "Even as they did not hke 
to retain me in their knowledge, I gave them over to a reprobate 
mind, to do those things which are not convenient."^ Command 
me, I beseech thee, O Lord, that I may cry out against them, and 
perchance they may be converted. 

O Roman pontiffs, the model of all crimes for other pontiffs! 
O wickedest of scribes and Pharisees, who sit in Moses' seat and 
do the deeds of Dathan and Abiram ! Will the raiment, the habili- 
ments, the pomp, the cavalry, indeed the whole manner of life 
of a Caesar thus befit the vicar of Christ? What fellowship has the 
priest with the Caesar? Did Sylvester put on this raiment; did he 
parade in this splendor; did he live and reign with such a throng 
of servants in his house? Depraved wretches! They did not know 
that Sylvester ought to have assumed the vestments of Aaron, 
who was the high priest of God, rather than those of a heathen 

But this must be more strongly pressed elsewhere. For the 
present, however, let us talk to this sycophant about barbarisms 
of speech; for by the stupidity of his language his monstrous 
impudence is made clear, and his lie. — 

"We give," he says, "our imperial Lateran palace": as though 
it was awkward to place the gift of the palace here among the 
ornaments, he repeated it later where gifts are treated. "Then 
the diadem;" and as though those present would not know, he 
interprets, "that is, the crown." He did not, indeed, here add "of 
gold," but later, emphasizing the same statements, he says, "of 
purest gold and precious gems." The ignorant fellow did not know 
that a diadem was made of coarse cloth or perhaps of silk; whence 
that wise and oft-repeated remark of the king, who, they say, 
before he put upon his head the diadem given him, held it and 
considered it long and exclaimed, "O cloth more renowned than 
happy! If any one knew you through and through, with how many 
anxieties and dangers and miseries you are fraught, he would not 

^ Ps. Ixxxi, 12. 

- Rom. i, 28, with the person of the verb changed. 


vellet tollere." Iste non putat illud nisi ex auro esse, cui circulus 
aureus nunc cum gemmis apponi a regibus solet. Verum non erat 
rex Constantinus, nee regem appellate, nee regio se ritu ornare 
fuisset ausus. Imperator Romanorum erat, non rex. Ubi rex est, 
ibi respublica non est. At in republica multi fuerunt etiam uno 
tempore imperatores; nam Cicero frequenter ita scribit: M. 
Cicero imperator illi vel illi imperatori salutem: licet postea pecu- 
liari nomine Romanus princeps, ut summus omnium, imperator 

"Simulque phrygium, nee non superhumerale, videlicet lorum 
quod imperiale circumdare solet coUum." Quis umquam phrygium 
Latine dici audivit? Tu mihi dum barbare loqueris videri vis Con- 
stantini aut Lactantii esse sermonem. Plautus in Menaechmis^ 
phrygionem^ pro concinnatore vestium posuit. Plinius phrygionas^ 
appellat vestes acu pictas, quod earum Phryges fuerint* inven- 
tores. Phrygium vero quid significat?^ Hoc non exponis, quod ob- 
scurum; exponis quod est elarius. Superhumerale ais esse lorum, 
nee quid sit lorum tenes; non enim cingulum ex corio factum, 
quod dicitur lorum, sentis circumdari pro ornamento Caesaris 
collo: hine est quod habenas et verbera vocamus lora; quod si 
quando dieantur lora aurea, non nisi de habenis quae auratae 
collo equi aut alterius pecudis circumdari assolent intelligi potest. 
Quae te res, ut mea fert opinio, fefellit, et cum lorum circumdare 
collo" Caesaris atque Silvestri vis, de homine, de imperatore, de 
summo pontifice, equum aut asinum^ facis. 

"Verum et ehlamydem' purpuream, atque tunicam coeeineam." 
Quia Matthaeus ait chlamydem coeeineam, et loannes vestem 
purpuream, utrumque voluit hie eodem loco coniungere. Quod si 
idem color est, ut Evangelistae significant, quid tu non fuisti eon- 
tentus alterum nominasse, ut illi content! fuerunt: nisi aceipis 
purpuram, ut nunc imperiti loquuntur, genus panni serici colore 

1 Menechinis ; MS. ^ Hutten. frygionem; MS. 

^ Correct form is phrygionias. Bonneau omits this whole sentence. 

* fuerunt ; Hutten. ^ significet ; Hutten. 

* loro circumdari collum ; Bonneau. 

'' Insert aut canem; Hutten, Bonneau. 
^chlamidem; MS., so below. 


care to pick you up; no, not even if you were lying on the 
ground!" This fellow does not imagine but that it is of gold, with 
a gold band and gems such as kings now usually add. But Con- 
stantine was not a king, nor would he have dared to call himself 
king, nor to adorn himself with royal ceremony. He was Emperor 
of the Romans, not king. Where there is a king, there is no re- 
public. But in the republic there were many, even at the same 
time, who were "imperatores" [generals] ; for Cicero frequently 
writes thus, "Marcus Cicero, imperator, to some other imperator, 
greeting": though, later on, the Roman ruler, as the highest of 
all, is called by way of distinctive title the Emperor. 

"And at the same time the tiara and also the shoulder-band, — 
that is the strap that usually surrounds our imperial neck." Who 
ever heard "tiara" [phrygium] used in Latin ? You talk like a bar- 
barian and want it to seem to me to be a speech of Constantine's 
or of Lactantius'. Plautus, in the Menaechmi, applied "phrygio- 
nem" to a designer of garments; Pliny calls clothes embroidered 
with a needle "phrygiones" because the Phrygians invented them; 
but what does "phrygium" mean? You do not explain this, which 
is obscure; you explain what is quite clear. You say the "shoulder- 
band" is a "strap," and you do not perceive what the strap is, for 
you do not visualize a leather band, which we call a strap, en- 
circling the Caesar's neck as an ornament. [It is of leather], hence 
we call harness and whips "straps": but if ever gold straps are 
mentioned, it can only be understood as applying to gilt harness 
such as is put around the neck of a horse or of some other animal. 
But this has escaped your notice, I think. So when you wish to 
put a strap around the Caesar's neck, or Sylvester's, you change 
a man, an Emperor, a supreme pontiff, into a horse or an ass. 

"And also the purple mantle and scarlet tunic." Because Mat- 
thew says "a scarlet robe," and John "a purple robe,"^ this fellow 
tries to join them together in the same passage. But if they are 
the same color, as the Evangelists imply, why are you not content, 
as they were, to name either one alone; unless, like ignorant folk 
today, you use "purple" for silk goods of a whitish color? The 

^Matt. xxvii, 28; John xix, 2. 


albo? Est autem purpura piscis, cuius sanguine lana tingitur, 
ideoque a tinctura datum est nomen panno, cuius color pro rubro 
accipi potest, licet sit magis nigricans et proximus colori sanguinis 
concreti, et quasi violaceus. Inde ab Homero atque Virgilio pur- 
pureus dicitur sanguis et marmor porphyritum/ cuius color est 
simillimus amethysto;^ Graeci enim purpuram porphyram vocant. 
Coccineum pro rubro accipi forte non ignoras; sed cur facial 
coccineum cum nos dicamus coccum, et chlamys quod genus sit 
vestimenti, iurarem te plane nescire. 

Atque ut ne se^ longius persequendo singulas vestes mendacem 
proderet, uno samel verbo complexus est, dicens; "omnia imperi- 
alia indumenta." Quid! Etiamne ilia quibus in bello, quibus in 
venatione, quibus in conviviis, quibus in ludis amiciri solet? Quid 
stultius quam omnia Caesaris indumenta dicere convenire pon- 

Sed quam lepide addit; "Seu etiam dignitatem imperialium 
praesidentium equitum"! "Seu" inquit. Distinguere duo haec in- 
vicem voluit, quasi multum inter se habeant similitudinis, et de 
imperatorio habitu ad equestrem dignitatem delabitur,* nescio 
quid loquens. Mira quaedam effari vult, sed deprehendi in men- 
dacio^ timet, eoque inflatis buccis et turgido gutture dat sine 
mente sonum. 

"Conferentes ei etiam imperialia sceptra." Quae structura orati- 
onis! Qui nitor! Qui ordo! Quaenam sunt sceptra ista imperialia? 
Unum est sceptrum, non plura; si modo sceptrum gerebat impera- 
tor. Num et pontifex sceptrum manu gestabit? Cur non ei dabimus 
et ensem et galeam et iaculum? 

"Simulque cuncta signa atque banna." Quid tu "signa" accipis? 
Signa sunt aut statuae, unde frequenter legimus signa et tabulas 

^ porphiritum ; MS. ^ amethisto ; MS. 

^si; Hutten. *dilabitur; Hutten, Bonneau. 

° mendatio; MS. 


"purple" [pupura], however, is a fish in whose blood wool is 
dyed, and so from the dye the name has been given to the cloth, 
whose color can be called red, though it may rather be blackish 
and very nearly the color of clotted blood, a sort of violet. Hence 
by Homer and Virgil blood is called purple, as is porphyry, the 
color of which is similar to amethyst; for the Greeks call purple 
"porphyra." You know perhaps that scarlet is used for red; but 
I would swear that you do not know at all why he makes it 
"coccineum" when we say "coccum," or what sort of a garment a 
"mantle" [chlamys] is. 

But that he might not betray himself as a liar by continuing 
longer on the separate garments, he embraced them all together 
in a single word, saying, "all the imperial raiment." What! even 
that which he is accustomed to wear in war, in the chase, at ban- 
quets, in games ? What could be more stupid than to say that all 
the raiment of the Caesar befits a pontiff! 

But how gracefully he adds, "and the same rank as those pre- 
siding over the imperial cavalry." He says "seu" ["or" for "and"].^ 
He wishes to distinguish between these two in turn, as if they 
were very like each other, and slips along from the imperial rai- 
ment to the equestrian rank, saying— I know not what! He 
wants to say something wonderful, but fears to be caught lying, 
and so with puffed cheeks and swollen throat, he gives forth 
sound without sense. 

"Conferring also on him the imperial sceptres." What a turn 
of speech! What splendor! What harmony! What are these im- 
perial sceptres? There is one sceptre, not several; if indeed the 
Emperor carried a sceptre at all. Will now the pontiff carry a 
sceptre in his hand? Why not give him a sword also, and helmet 
and javelin? 

"And at the same time all the standards and banners." What 
do you understand by "standards" [signa]? "Signa" are either 
statues (hence frequently we read "signa et tabulas" for pieces 

1 Here, as was common in medieval Latin, "seu" is the equivalent of "et," and 
means "and." Valla's criticism is correct, but might go further in fixing the time 
of the forgery. Cf. supra, p. 91, note i. 


pro sculpturis ac picturis,-^prisci enim non in parietibus pin- 
gebant, sed in tabulis, — aut vexilla, unde illud; "Signa, pares 
aquilas." A priore significato sigilla dicuntur parvae statuae atque 
sculpturae. Num ergo statuas aut aquilas suas Silvestro dabat Con- 
stantinus? Quid hoc absurdius? At "banna" quid sibi velit, non in- 
venio. Deus te perdat, improbissime mortalium, qui sermonem 
barbarum attribuis saeculo erudito! 

"Et diversa ornamenta imperialia." Quia dixit "banna," satis 
putavit significatum esse, et ideo cetera sub verbum universale 
conclusit. Et quam frequenter inculcat "imperalia"; quasi propria 
quaedam sint ornamenta imperatoris magis quam consulis, quam 
dictatoris, quam Caesaris ! 

"Et omnem processionem imperialis culminis, et gloriam potes- 
tatis nostrae." 

"Proicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba," 
"Rex regum Darius, consanguineusque deorum," 

numquam nisi numero plurali loquens/ Quae est ista processio 
imperialis; cucumeris per herbam torti, et crescentis^ in ventrem? 
Triumphasse existimas Caesarem quotiens domo prodibat, ut nunc 
solet papa, praecedentibus albis equis, quos stratos ornatosque 
famuli dextrant; quo, ut taceam alias ineptias, nihil est vanius, 
nihilque a pontifice Romano alienius? Quae etiam ista gloria est? 
Gloriamne, ut Hebraeae linguae mos est, pompam et apparatus 
ilium splendorem homo Latinus appellasset ? Ut illud quoque mili- 
tiam pro milites, quod ab Hebraeis sumus mutuati, quorum libros 
Cons tan tinus aut ipsius scribae numquam aspexerant? 

Verum quanta est munificentia tua, Imperator, qui non satis 
habes ornasse^ pontificem, nisi ornes et omnem clerum! "Culmen 

1 loqueris ; Hutten, Bonneau. ^ cresentis ; MS. 

'' Insert summum ; Hutten. 


of sculpture and paintings; — for the ancients did not paint on 
walls, but on tablets) or military standards (hence that phrase 
"Standards, matched eagles"^). In the former sense small statues 
and sculptures are called "sigilla." Now then, did Constantine give 
Sylvester his statues or his eagles ? What could be more absurd? 
But what "banners" [banna^] may signify, I do not discover. 
May God destroy you, most depraved of mortals who attribute 
barbarous language to a cultured age! 

"And different imperial ornaments." When he said "banners," 
he thought he had been explicit long enough, and therefore he 
lumped the rest under a general term. And how frequently he 
drives home the word "imperial," as though there were certain 
ornaments peculiar to the Emperor over against the consul, the 
dictator, the Caesar! 

"And all the pomp of our imperial eminence, and the glory of 
our power." "He discards bombast and cubit-long words,"^ "This 
king of kings, Darius, the kinsman of the gods,"* never speaking 
save in the plural! What is this imperial "pomp"; that of the 
cucumber twisted in the grass, and growing at the belly? Do you 
think the Caesar celebrated a triumph whenever he left his house, 
as the Pope now does, preceded by white horses which servants 
lead saddled and adorned? To pass over other follies, nothing is 
emptier, more unbecoming a Roman pontiff than this. And what 
is this "glory"? Would a Latin have called pomp and parapher- 
nalia "glory," as is customary in the Hebrew language? And 
instead of "soldiers" [milites] you say soldiery [militia^] which 
we have borrowed from the Hebrews, whose books neither Con- 
stantine nor his secretaries had ever laid eyes on ! 

But how great is your munificence, O Emperor, who deem it 
not sufficient to have adorned the pontiff, unless you adorn all the 
clergy also! As an "eminence of distinguished power and excel- 

1 Lucan, Pharsalia, i, 7. 

" In our best texts of the Donation this word is "banda," used in the eighth 
century for "colors" or "flags." 

^ Horace, Ars Poetica, 1. 97. * Julius Valerius, Res Gestae Alexandri, i, 37. 

^ At Rome in the eighth century, the time of the forgery, "militia" indicated a 
civil rank, rather than soldiers. 


singularis potentiae et praecellentiae," ais, "effici patricios, con- 
sules." Quis audivit senatores aliosve homines effici patricios? 
Consules efficiuntur, non patricii;^ ex domo vel patricia, quae 
eadem senatoria dicitur, siquidem senatores patres conscript! sunt, 
vel ex equestri, vel ex plebeia; plusque est senatorem esse quam 
patricium, nam senator est unus e delectis consiliariis reipublicae, 
patricius^ vero qui e domo senatoria ortum ducit. Ita qui senator 
aut ex patribus conscriptis non protinus et patricius^ est. Ridi- 
culeque Romani mei hoc tempore faciunt, qui praetorem suum 
senatorem vocant, cum neque senatus ex uno homine constare 
possit, necesseque sit senatorem habere collegas; et is' qui nunc 
senator dicitur fungatur officio praetoris. At dignitas patriciatus in 
multis libris invenitur, inquies. Audio : sed in his qui de tempori- 
bus post Constantinum loquuntur. Ergo post Constantinum privi- 
legium confectum est. 

Sed numquid clerici fieri consules possunt? Coniugio sibi inter- 
dixere Latini clerici: et consules fient, habitoque delectu militum 
cum legionibus et auxiliis in provincias, quas fuerint sortiti, se 
conferent? Ministrine et servi consules fient?* Nee bini, ut sole- 
bat, sed centeni ac milleni ministri qui Romanae ecclesiae servient, 
dignitate afficientur imperatoria? Et ego stolidus mirabar quod 
papa effici diceretur! Ministri imperatores erunt; clerici vero 
milites. Militesne clerici fient, aut militaria ornamenta gestabunt, 
nisi imperialia ornamenta universis clericis impertis? Nam nescio 
quid dicas. Et quis non videt hanc fabulam ab iis excogitatam esse, 
qui sibi omnem vestiendi licentiam esse voluerunt? Ut existimem. 

ipatritii; MS. ^patritius; MS. ^ Hutten, Bonneau. iis; MS. 

••fiant; Hutten. faciunt; Bonneau. Add aut militaria ornamenta; Hutten, 


lence," you say, they are "made patricians and consuls." Who 
has ever heard of senators or other men being made patricians? 
Consuls are "made," but not patricians. The senators, the con- 
script fathers, are from patrician (also called senatorial), eques- 
trian, or plebeian families as the case may be. It' is greater, also, 
to be a senator than to be a patrician; for a senator is one of 
the chosen counsellors of the Republic, while a patrician is merely 
one who derives his origin from a senatorial family. So one who 
is a senator, or of the conscript fathers, is not necessarily forth- 
with also a patrician. So my friends the Romans are now making 
themselves ridiculous when they call their praetor "senator," 
since a senate cannot consist of one man and a senator must have 
colleagues, and he who is now called "senator" performs the 
function of praetor. But, you say, the title of patrician is found 
in many books.^ Yes; but in those which speak of times later 
than Constantine; therefore the "privilege" was executed after 

But how can the clergy become consuls?^ The Latin clergy 
have denied themselves matrimony; and will they become consuls, 
make a levy of troops, and betake themselves to the provinces 
allotted them with legions and auxiliaries? Are servants and 
slaves made consuls? And are there to be not two, as was cus- 
tomary; but the hundreds and thousands of attendants who serve 
the Roman church, are they to be honored with the rank of 
general? And I was stupid enough to wonder at what was said 
about the Pope's transformation! The attendants will be generals; 
but the clergy soldiers. Will the clergy become soldiers or wear 
military insignia, unless you share the imperial insignia with all 
the clergy? [I may well ask,] for I do not know what you are 
saying. And who does not see that this fabulous tale was con- 
cocted by those who wished to have every possible license in the 

1 The allusion is to the title of Patrician given to Pippin and to his sons as 
defenders of the Roman See. 

^ The office of consul as it existed in the Republic and the Empire disappeared 
in the time of the German invasions. The word was later applied quite differently, 
to a group, practically a social class, at Rome. 


si qua inter daemones qui aerem incolunt ludorum genera exer- 
centur, eos exprimendo clericorum cultu, fastu, luxu, exerceri, et 
hoc scaenici^ lusus genere maxime delectari. 

Utrum magis insequar, sententiarum an verborum stoliditatem? 
Sententiarum audistis. Verborum haec est; ut dicat senatum videri 
adornari, quasi non utique adornetur, et quidem adornari gloria; 
et quod fit, factum esse velit, ut "promulgavimus" pro promul- 
gamus, illo enim modo sonat iucundius oratio; et eandem rem per 
praesens et per praeteritum enuntiet, velut "decernimus" et 
"decrevimus" ; et omnia sint referta his vocibus, "decernimus," 
"decoramus," "imperialis," "imperatoria," "potentia," "gloria"; 
et "exstat" pro est posuerit, cum "extare" sit supereminere, vel 
superesse; et "nempe" pro scilicet; et "concubitores" pro con- 
tubernales. "Concubitores" sunt qui concumbunt, et coeunt; nimi- 
rum scorta intelligend^ sunt. Addit, cum quibus dormiat, ne 
timeat, opinor, nocturna phantasmata: addit cubicularios : addit 

Non otiosum^ est, quare haec ab eo minuta referuntur. Pupil- 
lum instituit aut adolescentem filium, non senem; cui omnia quibus 
necesse habet tenera aetas ipse velut amantissimus pater prae- 
parat, ut David Salomoni^ fecit. Atque ut per omnes numeros 
fabula impleatur, dantur clericis equi, ne asinario illo Christi more 
super asellos sedeant; et dantur non operti sive instrati operimen- 
tis color is albi, sed decor ati colore albo. At quibus operimentis! 
Non stragulis, non Babylonicis, aut quo alio genere, sed "map- 

1 scenici ; MS. ^ ociosum ; MS. 

3 Hutten, Bonneau. Salomon; MS. 


attire they were to wear? If there are games of any kind played 
among the demons which inhabit the air I should think that they 
would consist in copying the apparel, the pride and the luxury 
of the clergy, and that the demons would be delighted most by 
this kind of masquerading. 

Which shall I censure the more, the stupidity of the ideas, or 
of the words? You have heard about the ideas; here are illustra- 
tions of his words. He says, "It seems proper for our Senate to 
be adorned" (as though it were not assuredly adorned), and to be 
adorned forsooth with "glory." And what is being done he wishes 
understood as already done; as, "we have proclaimed" for "we 
proclaim": for the speech sounds better that way. And he puts 
the same act in the present and in the past tense; as, "we decree," 
and "we have decreed." And everything is stuffed with these 
words, "we decree," "we decorate," "imperial," "imperial rank," 
"power," "glory." He uses "extat" for "est," though "extare" 
means to stand out or to be above; and "nempe" for "scilicet" 
[that is, "indeed" for "to wit"] ; and "concubitores" [translated 
above, bed-watchers] for "contubernales" [companions or at- 
tendants]. "Concubitores" are literally those who sleep together 
and have intercourse; they must certainly be understood to be 
harlots. He adds those with whom he may sleep, I suppose, that 
he may not fear nocturnal phantoms.^ He adds "chamberlains"; 
he adds "door-keepers." 

It is not an idle question to ask why he mentions these details. 
He is setting up, not an old man, but a ward or a young son, and 
like a doting father, himself arranges for him everything of which 
his tender age has need, as David did for Solomon ! And that the 
story may be filled in in every respect, horses are given the 
clergy, — lest they sit on asses' colts in that asinine way of 
Christ's! And they are given horses, not covered nor saddled 
with coverings of white, but decorated with white color. And 
what coverings ! Not horse-cloths, either Babylonian or any other 
kind, but "mappulae" [translated above, saddle-cloths] and 

1 Where Valla's text of the Donation reads "concubitorum," Zeumer's reads 
"excubiorum" [guards]. 


pulis et linteaminibus"! Mappae ad mensam pertinent, linteamina 
ad lectulos. Et quasi dubium sit cuius sint haec coloris, interpre- 
tatur; "id est candidissimo colore." Dignus Constantino sermo, 
digna Lactantio facundia, cum in ceteris, turn vero in illo "equos 

Et cum de vestitu senatorum nihil dixerit, non de laticlavo, non 
de purpura, non de ceteris, de calceamentis sibi loquendum puta- 
vit; nee lunulas appellavit, sed udones, sive "cum udonibus," 
quos ut solet homo ineptus exponit, "id est candido linteamine," 
quasi udones linteamen sint! Non occurrit impraesentiarum,^ ubi 
repererim "udones," nisi apud Martialem Valerium, cuius disti- 
con quod inscribitur "Udones Cilicii"^ hoc est: 

"Non hos lana dedit, sed olentis barba mariti; 
Cinyphio^ poterit planta latere sinu." 

Ergo non linei utique, nee candidi sunt udones, quibus hie bipes 
asellus non calceari pedes senatorum ait, sed senatores illustrari. 
Atque per hoc, "sicut caelestia ita terrena* ad laudem Dei de- 
corentur," quae tu "caelestia" vocas; quae "terrena"? Quomodo 
caelestia decorantur? Quae autem Deo laus sit ista tu videris. Ego 
vero, si qua mihi fides est, nihil puto nee Deo nee ceteris homini- 
bus magis esse invisum quam tantam clericorum in rebus saeeu- 
laribus licentiam. Verum quid ego in singula impetum facio? Dies 
me deficiat,^ si universa, non dico amplifieare, sed attingere velim. 

"Pre** omnibus autem licentiam tribuimus beato Silvestro et 
suceessoribus eius ex nostro indictu, ut quem plaeatus proprio 
consilio clerieare voluerit et in religiose numero religiosorum 

1 inpraesentiarum ; MS. ^ Bonneau. Cilicini ; MS., Hutten. 
^Bonneau. Cyniphio; MS., Hutten. 

*terrestria; Hutten, Bonneau. The quotation, to correspond with Valla's 
earlier citation, should be "ita caelestia sicut terrena ad laudem Dei decorentur." 
^deficiet; Hutten, Bonneau. Insert alias deficient; Bonneau. 
^prae; Hutten, Bonneau. 


"linteamina" [linen cloths or sheets, translated above, linen]. 
"Mappae" [serviettes] go with the table, "linteamina" with the 
couch. And as though there were doubt as to their color, he 
explains, "that is to say, of the whitest color." Talk worthy of 
Constantine; fluency worthy of Lactantius; not only in the other 
phrases, but also in that one, "may mount mounts"! 

And when he had said nothing about the garb of senators, the 
broad stripe, the purple, and the rest, he thougjit he had to talk 
about their shoes ; nor does he specify the crescents [which were 
on their shoes], but "socks," or rather he says "with felt socks," 
and then as usual he explains, "that is, with white linen," as 
though socks were of linen! I cannot at the moment think where 
I have found the word "udones" [socks], except in Valerius 
Martial, whose distich inscribed "Cilician Socks" runs: 

"Wool did not produce these, but the beard of an ill-smelling goat. 
Would that the sole in the gulf of the Cinyps might lie.""^ 

So the "socks" are not linen, nor white, with which this two-legged 
ass says, not that the feet of senators are clad, but that senators 
are distinguished. 

And in the phrase "that the terrestrial orders may be adorned 
to the glory of God, just as the celestial," what do you call celes- 
tial, what terrestrial? How are the celestial orders adorned?^ You 
may have seen what glory to God this is. But I, if I believe 
anything, deem nothing more hateful to God and to the rest of 
humanity than such presumption of clergy in the secular sphere. 
But why do I attack individual items? Time would fail me if I 
should try, I do not say to dwell upon, but to touch upon them all. 

"Above all things, moreover, we give permission to the blessed 
Sylvester and his successors, from our edict, that he may make 
priest whomever he wishes, according to his own pleasure and 
counsel, and enroll him in the pious number of the religious clergy 

1 Martial, XIV, 141 (140). 

2 Valla for this part of his criticism uses the rather unintelligible order of words 
found in most texts of the Donation, instead of the more inteUigible order which 
he used in his earlier quotations. Cf. pp. 102, 103. 


clericorum connumerare, nullus ex omnibus praesumat superbe 

Quis est hie Melchisedec, qui patriarcham Abraam benedicit? 
Constantinusne, vix Christianus, facultatem ei, a quo baptizatus 
est et quem beatum appellat, tribuit clericandi? Quasi prius nee 
fecisset hoc Silvester nee facere potuisset! Et qua comminatione 
vetuit, ne quis impedimento esset? "Nullus ex omnibus praesumat 
superbe agere." Qua etiam elegantia! "Connumerare in numero 
religiose religiosorum," "clericare . . . clericorum," et "indictu," 
et "placatus." 

Atque iterum ad diadema revertitur : 

"Decrevimus itaque et hoc, ut ipse et successores eius dia- 
demate, videlicet corona, quam ex capite nostro illi concesseri- 
mus,^ ex auro purissimo et gemmis pretiosis^ uti debeant pro 
honore beati Petri." 

Iterum interpretatur diadema; cum barbaris enim et obliviosis 
loquebatur; et adicit "de auro purissimo," ne forte aliquid aeris 
aut scoriae crederes admixtum.' Et gemmas cum dixit, addit 
"pretiosas" eodem timore ne viles forsitan suspicareris. Cur tamen 
non "pretiosissimas," quemadmodum "aurum purissimum"? Plus 
namque* interest inter gemmam et gemmam, quam inter aurum et 
aurum. Et cum dicere debuisset distinctum gemmis, dixit "ex 
gemmis." Quis non vidit ex eo loco sumptum, quem princeps gen- 
tilis non legerat; "Posuisti in capite eius coronam de lapide pre- 
tioso"? Sic locutus^ est Caesar vanitate quadam coronae suae 
iactandae, si modo Caesares coronabantur, in se ipsum contume- 

1 concessimus ; Bonneau, Zeumer's text of the Constitutum Constantini. 
2preciosis; MS., so below. ' Hutten. admistum; MS. 

* nanque ; MS. ^ loqutus ; MS., so throughout. 


[i.e., regular clergy; or perhaps cardinals]: let no one whomso- 
ever presume to act in a domineering way in this."^ 

Who is this Melchizedek that blesses the patriarch Abraham? 
Does Constantine, scarcely yet a Christian, give to the man by 
whom he was baptized and whom he calls blessed, authority to 
make priests? As though Sylvester had not and could not have 
done it before! And with what a threat he forbids any one to 
stand in the way! "Let no one, whomsoever, presume to act in a 
domineering way in this matter." What elegant diction, too! 
"Enroll in the pious number of the religious"; and "clericare," 
"clericorum," "indictu," and "placatus"! 

And again he comes back to the diadem: 

"We also therefore decreed this, that he himself and his suc- 
cessors might use, for the honor of the blessed Peter, the diadem, 
that is the crown, which we have granted him from our own head, 
of purest gold and precious gems." 

Again he explains the meaning of diadem, for he was speaking 
to barbarians, forgetful ones at that. And he adds "of purest 
gold," lest perchance you should think brass or dross was mixed 
in. And when he has said "gems," he adds "precious," again 
fearing lest you should suspect them of being cheap. Yet why did 
he not say most precious, just as he said "purest gold"? For there 
is more difference between gem and gem, than between gold and 
gold. And when he should have said "distinctum gemmis," he 
said "ex gemmis." WTio does not see that this was taken from 
the passage, which the gentile ruler had not read, "Thou settest 
a crown of precious stone on his head"?^ Did the Caesar speak 
thus, with a certain vanity in bragging of his crown, if indeed the 
Caesars were crowned, but cheapening himself by fearing lest 

1 Valla's text of the Donation in this paragraph differs greatly from Zeumer's, 
Hinschius', and Friedberg's. It is not very clear in any of the texts whether the 
intent is to give the Pope power to take any one whomsoever into the clergy and 
thus relieve him from civil and military duties, or to prevent the Roman nobility 
from forcing their way into ecclesiastical offices against the will of the Pope. 

2 Ps. xxi, 3, with variation. 


liosus, qui vereretur ne homines opinarentur eum non gestare 
coronam ex auro purissimo cum gemmis pretiosis, nisi indicasset? 

Accipe causam cur sic loquatur; "pro honore beati Petri.*' 
Quasi Christus non sit summus angularis lapis, in quo templum 
ecclesiae constructum est, sed Petrus; quod iterum postea facit. 
Quem si tantopere venerari volebat, cur non templum episcopate 
illi potius quam loanni Baptistae Romae dicavit? 

Quid? Ilia loquendi barbaries nonne testatur non saeculo Con- 
stantini, sed posteriori, cantilenam banc esse confictam ? "Decerni- 
mus quod . . . uti debeant,'" pro eo quod est decernimus^ ut 
utantur: sic nunc barbari homines vulgo loquuntur et scribunt, 
"lussi quod deberes venire," pro eo quod est, "lussi ut venires": 
et "decrevimus" et "concessimus," quasi non tunc fiant ilia, sed 
alio quodam tempore facta sint. 

"Ipse vero beatus papa super coronam clericatus, quam gerit 
ad gloriam beatissimi Petri, ipsa ex auro non est passus uti 

O tuam singularem stultitiam, Constantino! Modo dicebas 
coronam super caput papae ad honorem facere beati Petri; nunc 
ais non facere, quia Silvester illam recusat; et cum factum re- 
cusantis probes, tamen iubes eum aurea uti corona; et quod hie 
non debere se agere existimat, id tu ipsius successores dicis agere 
debere. Transeo quod rasuram coronam vocas, et papam ponti- 
ficem Romanum, qui nondum peculiariter sic appellari erat 

"Phrygium vero candidissimo nitore splendidum, resurrectionem 

1 Decrevimus hoc ut . . . uti debeant, is the correct quotation from the Con- 
stitutum Constantini. Decrevimus quod uti debeant; Hutten. 
2 decrevimus; MS., Hutten. 


people would think that he did not wear a crown "of purest gold 
and precious gems," unless he said so ? 

Find the reason why he speaks thus: "for the honor of the 
blessed Peter." As though, not Christ, but Peter, were the chief 
corner-stone on which the temple of the church is built; an infer- 
ence he later repeats! But if he wanted to honor him so much, 
why did he not dedicate the episcopal temple at Rome to him, 
rather than to John the Baptist? 

What? Does not that barbarous way of talking show that the 
rigmarole was composed, not in the age of Constantine, but later; 
"decemimus quod uti debeant"^ for the dorrect form "decernimus 
ut utantur"? Boors commonly speak and write that way now; 
"lussi quod deberes venire" for "lussi ut venires." And "we 
decreed," and "we granted," as though it were not being done -' 
now, but had been done some other time! 

"But he himself, the blessed Pope, did not allow that crown 
of gold to be used over the clerical crown which he wears to the 
glory of the most blessed Peter." 

Alas for your singular stupidity, Constantine! Just now you 
were saying that you put the crown on the Pope's head for the 
honor of the blessed Peter; now you say that you do not do it, 
because Sylvester refuses it. And while you approve his refusal, 
you nevertheless order him to use the gold crown; and what he 
thinks he ought not to do, that you say his own successors ought 
to do!^ I pass over the fact that you call the tonsure a crown, 
and the Roman pontiff "Pope," although that word had not yet * 
begun to be applied to him as a distinctive title. 

"But we placed upon his most holy head, with our own hands, 

1 Valla does not, here, quote his own text of the Donation correctly. 

2 This singular confusion about the crown in the Donation is explained by 
Brunner, Festgabe fiir Rudolf von Gneist, pp. 25 et seq., as giving the Pope the 
possession, but not the use, of the imperial crown, thus paving the way for his 
prerogative of conferring the crown upon Louis the Pious in 816. Scheffer-Boichorst 
takes the whole episode as an attempt of the forger to glorify Sylvester by having 
the emperor honor him with the imperial crown, and having the Pope display 
the clerical humility (and pride) of rejecting it. 


Dominicam designans, eius sacratissimo vertici manibus nostris 
imposuimus, et tenentes frenum equi pro reverentia beati Petri 
dextratoris officium illi exhibuimus, statuentes eodem phrygio 
omnes eius successores singulariter uti in processionibus ad imperii 
nostri imitationem." 

Nonne videtur hie auctor fabulae non per imprudentiam, sed 
consulto et dedita opera praevaricari et undique ansas ad se 
reprehendendum praebere? In eodem^ loco ait, phrygio et Domi- 
nicam resurrectionem repraesentari,^ et imperii Caesarei esse imi- 
tationem; quae duo inter se maxime discrepant. Deum testor, non 
invenio quibus verbis, qua verborum atrocitate, confodiam hunc 
perditissimum nebulonem. Ita omnia verba plena insaniae evomit. 
Constantinum non tantum officio similem Moysi, qui summum 
sacerdotem iussu Dei ornavit, sed secreta mysteria' facit exponen- 
tem, quod difficillimum est iis qui diu in sacris litteris* sunt ver- 
sati. Cur non fecisti etiam Constantinum pontificem maximum, ut 
multi Imperatores fuerunt, ut commodius ipsius ornamenta in al- 
teram summum pontificem transferrentur? Sed nescisti historias. 
Ago itaque Deo etiam hoc nomine gratias, quod^ istam nefandissi- 
mam mentem non nisi in stultissimum hominem cadere permisit: 
quod etiam posteriora declarant. Namque Aaron sedenti in equo 
Moysen" inducit dextratoris exhibuisse officium, et hoc non per 
medium Israel, sed per Chananeos atque Aegyptios, id est per 
infidelem civitatem, ubi non tam imperium erat orbis terrarum 
quam daemonum, et daemones colentium populorum. 

"Unde ut pontificalis apex non vilescat, sed ut^ magis quam 
imperii terreni dignitas, gloria et potentia decoretur, ecce tam 
palatium nostrum, quamque Romanam urbem et omnes Italiae 
sive occidentalium regionum provincias,* loca, civitates beatis- 
simo pontifici et universali papae Silvestro tradimus atque relin- 

leodojMS. 2 jepresentari; MS. 

^ Hutten. misteria; MS. ministeria; Bonneau. 

^libris; Bonneau. ^ qui; Bonneau. ^Moysem;MS. 

^ Omit ut ; Hutten, Zeumer's text of the Constitutum Constantini. 

8 provintias ; MS. 


a glittering tiara of the most dazzling white, representing the 
Lord's resurrection. And holding the bridle of his horse, out of 
reverence for the blessed Peter, we performed for him the duty 
of squire; decreeing that all his successors, and they alone, use 
this same tiara in processions in imitation of our power."/" 

Does not this fable-fabricator seem to blunder, not through 
imprudence, but deliberately and of set purpose, and so as to 
offer handles for catching him? In the same passage he says 
both that the Lord's resurrection is represented by the tiara, and 
that it is an imitation of Caesar's power; two things which differ 
most widely from each other. God is my witness, I find no words, 
no words merciless enough with which to stab this most aban- 
doned scoundrel; so full of insanity are all the words he vomits 
forth. He makes Constantine not only similar in office to Moses, 
who at the command of God honored the chief priest, but also 
an expounder of secret mysteries, a most difficult thing even for 
those long versed in the sacred books. Why did you not make 
Constantine supreme pontiff while you were about it, as many 
emperors have been, that he might more conveniently transfer his 
attire to the other high priest? But you did not know history. 
And I give thanks to God on this very score, that he did not 
permit this utterly vicious scheme to be suggested save to an 
exceedingly stupid man. Subsequent considerations also show this. 
For he suggests the fact that Moses performed for Aaron, seated 
on a horse, the duty of squire [dextratoris] , and that in the midst 
not of Israel, but of the Canaanites and the Egyptians, that is, 
of an heathen state, where there was not so much a secular 
government as one of demons and demon-worshipping peoples. 

"Wherefore, in order that the supreme pontificate may not 
deteriorate, but may rather be adorned with glory and power 
even more than is the dignity of an earthly rule; behold, we give 
over and relinquish to the most blessed pontiff and universal 
Pope, Sylvester, as well our palace as also the city of Rome and 
all the provinces, places and cities of Italy or^ of the western 

1 Valla's text of the Donation here has "sive" for "seu," cf. supra, p. 91, note i. 


quimus, et ab eo et a successoribus eius per pragmaticum 
constitutum decrevimus disponendas atque iuri sanctae Romanae 
ecclesiae permanendas." 

De hoc in oratione Romanorum atque Silvestri multa disserui- 
mus. Huius loci est ut dicamus neminem fuisse facturum ut 
nationes uno cunctas verbo donationis involveret, et qui minutis- 
sima quaeque superius est exsecutus, lorum, calceos,^ linteamina 
equorum,^ non referret nominatim provincias,^ quarum singulae 
non* singulos reges nunc aut principes regibus pares habent. Sed 
ignoravit videlicet hie falsator quae provinciae sub Constantino 
erant, quae non erant. Nam certe cunctae sub eo non erant.^ 
Alexandre exstincto videmus singulcis regiones in ducum par- 
titione numeratas; a Xenophonte terras principesque nominatos, 
qui vel ultro vel armis sub imperio Cyri fuerunt; ab Homero 
Graecorum barbarorumque regum nomen, genus, patriam, mores, 
vires, pulchritudinem, numerum navium et prope numerum" mili- 
tum, catalogo' comprehensum, cuius exemplum cum multi Graeci, 
tum vero nostri Latini, Ennius, Virgilius, Lucanus, Statins, aliique 
nonnulli imitati sunt; a losue et Moyse in divisione terrae promis- 
sionis viculos quoque universos fuisse descriptos;^ et tu gravaris 
etiam provincias recensere? Occidentals tan tum provincias nomi- 
nas. Qui sunt fines occidentis; ubi incipiunt, ubi desinunt? Num 
ita certi constitutique sunt termini occidentis et orientis, meridi- 
eique et septentrionis, ut sunt Asiae, Africae, Europae? Necessaria 
verba subtrahis, ingeris supervacua. Dicis, "provincias, loca, civi- 

^ calceo ; MS., an error. - Insert ornamenta ; Hutten. 

^provintias; MS., so below. ■'Omit non; Bonneau. 

5 Omit Nam . . . erant ; Bonneau. " numero ; MS., an error, 

'cathalogo; MS. ^descirptos; MS. 


regions; and by our pragmatic sanction we have decreed that 
they are to be controlled by him and by his successors, and that 
they remain under the law of the holy Roman church." 

We have already, in the oration of the Romans and that of 
Sylvester, said a good deal about this/ Here it is in place to say 
that no one would have thought of including all the nations in a 
single word of a grant; and that a man who had earlier followed 
out the minutest details of straps, the shoes, the linen horse- 
cloths, would not have thought of omitting to cite, by name 
provinces which now have separate kings or rulers equal to kings, 
and more than one to each. But this forger, of course, did not 
know which provinces were under Constantine, and which were 
not. For certainly not all were under him. When Alexander died, 
we see all the countries enumerated one by one in the division 
among the generals. We see the lands and rulers which were under 
the government of Cyrus, whether voluntarily or by conquest, 
named by Xenophon. We see the names of the Greek and bar- 
barian kings, their lineage, their country, their bravery, their 
strength, their excellence, the number of their ships and the ap- 
proximate number of their men, included by Homer in his catalog. 
And not only did many Greeks follow his example, but our Latin 
authors also, Ennius, Virgil, Lucan, Statins, and others. By Joshua 
and Moses, in the division of the promised land, even all the little 
villages were described. And you refuse to enumerate even prov- 
inces! You name only the "western provinces.'" What are the 
boundaries of the west; where do they begin; where do they end? 
Are the frontiers of west and east, south and north, as definite 
and fixed as those of Asia, Africa and Europe? Necessary words 
you omit, you heap on superfluous ones. You say, "provinces. 

In the whole paragraph there are many deviations from other texts of the 

^ Cf. supra, pp. 41 et seq., 49 et seq. 

2 This phrase as used in the Donation probably meant Lombardy, Venetia and 
Istria; i.e., practically, northern, as distinct from peninsular, Italy. Cf. supra, 
p. 27, note 2, also, DbUinger, Papstfabeln (ed. Friedrich), p. 122, note. In classical 
Latin it would have been, as Valla insists, a vague term. 


tates." Nonne et provinciae et urbes loca sunt? Et cum dixeris 
provincias, subitingis civitates, quasi hae sub illis non intelligan- 
tur. Sed non est mirum qui tantam orbis terrarum partem a se 
alienat, eundem urbium provinciarumque nomina praeterire, et 
quasi lethargo oppressum, quid loquatur ignorare. "Italiae sive 
occidentalium regionum," tamquam aut hoc aut illud, cum tamen 
utrumque intelligat: appellans "provincias regionum," cum sint 
potius regiones provinciarum; et "permanendam"^ dicens pro 

"Unde congruum prospeximus, nostriim imperium et regiam 
potestatem orientalibus transferri regionibus, et in Byzantiae pro- 
vinciae Optimo loco nomini nostro civitatem aedificari, et illic 
nostrum constitui imperium."^ 

Taceo quod dixit civitates aedificari, cum urbes aedificentur 
non civitates; et "Byzantiam' provinciam." Si tu es Constantinus, 
redde causam cur ilium potissimimi locum condendae urbi* dele- 
geris. Quod enim alio te transferas post Romam traditam non tam 
congruum quam necessarium est. Nee te appelles imperatorem, 
qui Romam amisisti, et de nomine Romano, quod discerpis, pes- 
sime meritus es; nee regem, quod nemo ante te fecit; nisi ideo te 
regem appelles quia Romanus esse desiisti.^ Sed affers causam 
sane honestam: 

"Quoniam ubi princeps sacerdotum et Christianae religionis 
caput constitutum est ab imperatore caelesti iustum non est ut 
illic imperator terrenus habeat potestatem." 

1 permanendas in the passage as quoted above by Valla. The form used varies 
in different texts of the Donation; permansurum, permanenda, permanendam, per- 

^Bonneau includes as part of this quotation the next quoted passage below, 
quoniam . . . potestatem. He repeats it in its proper place without quotation 

3 Schard. ItaUam; MS., Hutten. 

*urbis; Hutten, Bonneau. ''desisti; MS. 


places and cities." Are not provinces and cities, "places"? And 
when you have said provinces you add cities, as though the latter 
would not be understood with the former. But it is not strange 
that a man who gives away so large a part of the earth should 
pass over the names of cities and of provinces, and as though 
overcome with lethargy not know what he says. "Of Italy or of 
the western regions," as though he meant "either . . . or" when 
he means "both";^ speaking of "provinces ... of the . . . 
regions," when it should rather be the regions of the provinces; 
and using the gerundive, "permanendas," for the future infinitive 
(permansuras) . 

"Wherefore we have perceived it to be fitting that our empire 
and our royal power should be transferred in the regions of the 
East; and that in the province of Byzantia [sic], in the most 
fitting place, a city should be built in our name; and that our 
empire should there be established." 

I pass over the fact that in saying "a city should be built" [he 
uses the word for "the state" instead of "the city"], and cities, 
not states, are built; and the fact that he says "the province of 
Byzantia."^ If you are Constantine, give the reason why you 
should choose that as the best place for founding your city. For 
that you should "transfer" yourself elsewhere after giving up 
Rome, was not so much "fitting" as necessary. You should neither 
call yourself Emperor when you have lost Rome and deserved 
least from the Roman name whose meaning you destroy; nor call 
yourself "royal," for no one before you has done so, — ^unless you 
call yourself a king because you have ceased to be a Roman.^ But 
you allege a reason sound and honorable: 

"For where the chief of [all] priests and the head of the Chris- 
tian religion has been established by the heavenly Emperor, it is 
not right that there an earthly Emperor should have jurisdiction." 

1 Cf. supra, pp. 91, 109. 2 Cf. supra, p. 95. 

3 King [rex] was a forbidden title at Rome after the time of the Tarquins. 


O stultum David, stultum Salomonem, stultum Ezechiam, losi- 
amque, et ceteros reges, stultos ac parum religiosos, qui in urbe 
Hierusalem cum summis sacerdotibus habitare sustinuerunt, nee 
tota illis urbe cesserunt! Plus sapit Constantinus triduo quam illi 
tota vita sapere potuerunt! Et "imperatorem caelestem" appellas, 
quia terrenum accepit imperium; nisi Deum intelligis, — nam am- 
bigue loqueris, — a quo terrenum principatum sacerdotum super 
urbe Romana ceterisque locis constitutum esse mentiris. 

"Haec vero omnia, quae per banc imperialem sacram^ et per 
alia divalia decreta statuimus et firmamus,^ usque in finem mundi 
illibata et inconcussa permanere decrevimus. " 

Modo terrenum te vocaveras, Constantine: nunc divum sacrum- 
que vocas. Ad gentilitatem recidis, et plusquEun gentilitatem. 
Deum te facis, et verba tua sacra, et decreta inunortalia; nam 
mundo imperas ut tua iussa conservet "illibata et inconcussa." 
Non cogitas quis tu es, modo e^ sordidissimo impietatis caeno* 
lotus et vix perlotus? Cur non addebas; "Iota unum aut unus apex 
de privilegio hoc non praeteribit,^ ut non magis pereat caelum et 
terra?" Regnum Saul a Deo electi ad filios non pervenit; regnum 
David in nepote discerptum est, et postea exstinctum. Et tu ad 
finem usque mundi regnum, quod tu sine Deo° tradis, perman- 
surum tua auctoritate decernis? Quis etiam tam cito te docuit 
mundum esse periturum? Nam poetis, qui hoc etiam testantur, 
non puto te hoc tempore fidem habere. Ergo hoc tu non dixisses, 
sed alius tibi affinxit. 

Ceterum, qui tam magnifice superbeque locutus est, timere inci- 
pit, sibique diffidere, eoque obtestationibus agit: 

1 Insert scripturam ; Hutten, Bonneau. 

2firmavimus; Hutten. confirmamus; Bonneau. confirmavimus ; Zeumer's text 
of the Constitutum Constantini.- 

3 et ; MS. * coeno ; MS. = peribit ; Hutten. 

" quod tu summo Deo ; Hutten. quod tu Summo Pontiflci ; Bonneau. 


stupid David, stupid Solomon, stupid Hezekiah, Josiah, and 
all the other kings, stupid all and irreligious, who persisted in 
dwelling in the city of Jerusalem with the chief priests, and did 
not yield them the whole city! Constantine in three days is wiser 
than they could be in their whole life. And you call [the Pope] 
a "heavenly Emperor" because he accepts an earthly empire; 
unless by that term you mean God (for you speak ambiguously) 
and mean that an earthly sovereignty of priests was by him 
established over the city of Rome and other places, in which case 
you lie. 

"We decreed, moreover, that all these things which through 
this sacred imperial [charter] and through other godlike decrees 
we establish and confirm, remain inviolate and unshaken unto the 
end of the world." 

A moment ago, Constantine, you called yourself earthly; now 
you call yourself divine and sacred. You relapse into paganism 
and worse than paganism. You make yourself God, your words 
sacred, and your decrees immortal; for you order the world to 
keep your commands "inviolate and unshaken." Do you con- 
sider who you are : just cleansed from the filthiest mire of wicked- 
ness, and scarcely fully cleansed? Why did you not add, "Till 
heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass 
from this 'privilege' "?^ The kingdom of Saul, chosen by God, 
did not pass on to his sons; the kingdom of David was divided 
under his grandson, and afterward destroyed. And by your own 
authority you decree that the kingdom which you give over 
without God, shall remain even until the end of the world! 
Whoever taught you that the world is to pass away so soon? For 
I do not think that at this time you had faith in the poets, who 
alone bear witness to this. So you could not have said this, but 
some one else passed it off as yours. 

However, he who spoke so grandly and loftily, begins to fear, 
and to distrust himself, and so takes to entreating: 

1 A parody on Matt, v, 18. 


"Unde coram Deo vivo, qui nos regnare praecepit,^ et coram 
terribili eius iudicio obtestamur^ omnes nostros successores Im- 
peratores vel cunctos optimates, satrapas etiam amplissimumque 
senatum et universum populum in universo orbe terrarum, nee 
non' et in posterum/ nulli eorum quoquo modo licere hoc aut 
confringere vel in quoquam convelli." 

Quam aequa, quam religiosa adiuratio! Non secus ac si lupus 
per innocentiam et fidem obtestetur ceteros lupos atque pastores, 
ne oves, quas sustulit interque filios et amicos partitus est, aut illi 
adimere, aut hi repetere tentent. Quid tantopere extimescis, Con- 
stantine? Si opus tuum ex Deo non est, dissolvetur: sin ex Deo, 
dissolvi non poterit. Sed video! Voluisti imitari Apocalypsim ubi 
dicitur: "Contestor autem audienti onmia verba prophetiae libri 
huius; si quis apposuerit ad haec, apponet Deus super ilium plagas 
scriptas in libro isto. Et si quis diminuerit de verbis libri pro- 
phetiae huius, auferet Deus partem eius de libro vitae et de civi- 
tate sancta." At tu numquam legeras Apocal3^sim, ergo non sunt 
haec verba tua. 

"Si quis autem, quod non^ credimus, in hoc temerator exstiterit, 
aeternis condemnationibus subiaceat condemnatus, et sanctos Dei 
apostolos Petrum et Paulum sibi in praesenti et in futura vita 
sentiat contrarios, atque in inferno inferiori concrematus cimi 
diabolo et omnibus deficiat impiis." 

Hie terror atque haec comminatio non* saecularis prineipis 
solet esse, sed priscorum sacerdotum ae flaminum, et nunc eccle- 
siasticorum. Itaque non est Constantini oratio haec, sed alieuius 
clericuli stolidi, nee quid dicat aut quomodo dieat scientis, sagi- 
nati et erasi, ae inter erapulam interque fervorem vini has sen- 
tentias et haec verba ructantis, quae non in alium transeunt, sed 

1 Hutten, Bonneau. praecipit; MS. ^ Qmit obtestamur; MS., an error. 

3 nunc instead of nee non; Bonneau, Zeumer's text of the Constitutum Con- 
stantini. ^imposterum; MS. 

^ Hutten, Bonneau, Zeumer's text of the Constitutum Constantini. Omit non ; 
MS. * Insert Caesaris aut ; Hutten, Bonneau. 


"Wherefore, before the hving God, who commanded us to reign, 
and in the face of his terrible judgment, we entreat all the em- 
perors our successors, and all the nobles, the satraps also and the 
most glorious Senate, and all the people in the whole world, like- 
wise also for the future, that no one of them, in any way, be 
allowed either to break this, or in any way overthrow it." 

What a fair, what a devout adjuration! It is just as if a wolf 
should entreat by his innocence and good faith the other wolves 
and the shepherds not to try to take away from him, or demand 
back, the sheep which he has taken and divided among his off- 
spring and his friends. Why are you so afraid, Constantine? If 
your work is not of God it will be destroyed; but if it is of God 
it cannot be destroyed. But I see! You wished to imitate the 
Apocal3^se, where it says: "For I testify unto every man that 
heareth all the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man 
shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues 
that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away 
from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away 
his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city."^ But 
you had never read the Apocalypse; therefore these are not 
your words. 

"If any one, moreover — which we do not believe — prove a 
scorner in this matter, he shall be condemned and shall be subject 
to eternal damnation; and shall feel the holy apostles of God, 
Peter and Paul, opposed to him in the present and in the future 
life. And he shall be burned in the lower hell and shall perish with 
the devil and all the impious." 

This terrible threat is the usual one, not of a secular ruler, but 
of the early priests and fiamens, and nowadays, of ecclesiastics. 
And so this is not the utterance of Constantine, but of some fool 
of a priest who, stuffed and pudgy, knew neither what to say nor 
how to say it, and, gorged with eating and heated with wine, 
belched out these wordy sentences which convey nothing to 

1 Rev. xxii, 18-19. 


in ipsum convertuntur auctorem. Primum ait, "aeternis con- 
demnationibus subiaceat," deinde, quasi plus addi queat, alia 
addere vult, et post aeternitatem poenarum adiungit poenas vitae 
praesentis; et cum Dei condemnatione nos terreat, adhuc, quasi 
maius quiddam sit, terret nos odio Petri, — cui Paulum cur adiun- 
gat, aut cur solum, nescio. Iterumque solito lethargo ad poenas 
aeternas redit, veluti non hoc ante dixisset. Quod si minae hae 
exsecrationesque Constantini forent, invicem exsecrarer ut tyran- 
num et profligatorem reipublicae meae, et illi me Romano ingenio 
minarer ultorem. Nunc quis extimescat^ exsecrationem avarissimi 
hominis et ritu histrionum verba simulantis ac sub persona Con- 
stantini alios deterrentis? Hoc est proprie hypocritam esse, si 
Graecam vocem exquirimus, sub aliena persona abscondere tuam. 

"Huius vero imperialis decreti paginam propriis manibus robor- 
antes super venerandum corpus beati Petri posuimus." 

Chartane an membrana fuit pagina in qua scripta haec sunt? 
Tametsi paginam vocamus alteram faciem, ut dicunt, folii; veluti 
quinternio habet folia dena, paginas vicenas. 

O rem inauditam et incredibilem! Cum essem adolescentulus, 
interrogasse me quendam^ memini, quis librum lob scripsisset; 
cumque ille respondisset, "Ipse lob," tunc me subiunxisse, "Quo 
pacto igitur de sua ipsius morte faceret mentionem?" Quod de 
multis aliis libris did potest, quorum ratio huic loco non convenit. 
Nam quomodo vere narrari potest id quod nondum esset adminis- 
tratum, et in tabulis contineri id quod post tabularum, ut sic 

lexistimat; Hutten. ^quemdam; MS. 


another, but turn against the author himself. First he says, "shall 
be subject to eternal damnation," then as though more could be 
added, he wishes to add something else, and to eternal penalties 
he joins penalties in the present life; and after he frightens us 
with God's condemnation, he frightens us with the hatred of 
Peter, as though it were something still greater. Why he should 
add Paul, and why Paul alone, I do not know. And with his usual 
drowsiness he returns again to eternal penalties, as though he had 
not said that before. Now if. these threats and curses were Con- 
stantine's, I in turn would curse him as a tyrant and destroyer 
of my country, and would threaten that I, as a Roman, would 
take vengeance on him. But who would be afraid of the curse of 
an overly avaricious man, and one saying a counterfeit speech 
after the manner of actors, and terrifying people in the role of 
Constantine? This is being a hypocrite in the true sense, if we 
press the Greek word closely; that is, hiding your own personality 
under another's. 

"The page,^ moreover, of this imperial decree, we, confirming ' 
it with our own hands, did place above the venerable body of the 
blessed Peter."^ 

Was it paper or parchment, the "page" on which this was 
written? Though, in fact, we call one side of a leaf, as they say, 
a page; for instance, a pamphlet [?] has ten leaves, twenty pages. 

But oh! the unheard of and incredible thing [that Constantine 
did] ! I remember asking some one, when I was a youth, who 
wrote the book of Job; and when he answered, "Job himself," 
I rejoined, "How then would he mention his own death?" And 
this can be said of many other books, discussion of which is not 
appropriate here. For how, indeed, can that be narrated which has 
not yet been done; and how can that which [the speaker] himself 

1 "Pagina" in medieval Latin often meant "document." 

2 In the Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchesne, i, 454) the keys of Ravenna and other 
cities included in the so-called Donation of Pippin are said to have been placed in 
"the confession of St. Peter" (i.e., before his tomb). This association seems to 
have been common in the eighth century. 


dicam, sepulturam factum esse ipse fateatur? Hoc nihil aliud est 
quam paginam privilegii ante fuisse mortuam sepultamque quam 
natam, nee tamen umquam a morte atque sepultura reversam; 
praesertim antequam conscripta esset roboratam, nee id una tan- 
tum sed utraque Caesaris manu. Et quid istud est roborare illam? 
Chirographone Caesaris, aut anulo signatorio? Magnum nimirum 
robur, maiusque multo quam si tabulis aereis mandavisset! Sed 
non est opus scriptura aerea, cum super corpus beati Petri charta 
reponatur. Cur hie Paulum retices, qui simul iacet cum Petro, et 
magis custodire possent ambo quam si afforet tantummodo cor- 
pus unius? 

Videtis artes malitiamque^ nequissimi Sinonis. Quia donatio 
Constantini doceri non potest, ideo non in tabulis aereis sed 
charteis privilegium esse, ideo latere illud cum corpore sanctissimi 
apostoli dixit, ne aut auderemus e venerabili sepulcro^ inquirere, 
aut, si inquirer emus, carie absumptum putaremus. Sed ubi tunc 
erat corpus beati Petri? Certe nondum in templo ubi nunc est, 
non in loco sane munito ac tuto. Ergo non illic Caesar paginam 
collocasset. An beatissimo Silvestro paginam non credebat, ut 
parum sancto, parum cauto, parum diligenti? O Petre, O Silvester, 
O sancti'' Romanae ecclesiae pontifices, quibus oves Domini com- 
missae sunt, cur vobis commissam paginam non custodistis?* Cur 
a tineis illam rodi, cur situ tabescere passi estis ? Opinor quia cor- 
pora quoque vestra contabuerunt. Stulte igitur fecit Constantinus. 
En redacta in pulverem pagina, ius simul privilegii in pulverem 

Atqui, ut videmus, paginae exemplar ostenditur. Quis ergo illam 
de sinu sanctissimi apostoli temerarius accepit? Nemo, ut reor, 
hoc fecit. Unde porro exemplar ?'' Nimirum aliquis antiquorum 

1 maliciamque ; MS. ^jepulchro; MS. 

^sanctae; Hutten, Bonneau. ^ custoditis ; Hutten, Bonneau. 

^ Hutten's text omits two sentences, "Nemo . . . exemplar." 


admits was done after the burial, so to say, of the records, be 
contained in the records? This is nothing else than saying that 
"the page of the privilege" was dead and buried before it was 
born, and yet never returned from death and burial; and saying 
expressly that it was confirmed before it had been written, and 
not with one hand alone at that, but with both of the Caesar's 
hands! And what is this "confirming"? Was it done with the sig- 
nature of the Caesar, or with his signet ring? Surely, hard and 
fast that, — more so by far than if he had entrusted it to bronze 
tablets! But there is no need of bronze inscription, when the 
charter is laid away above the body of the blessed Peter. But why 
do you here suppress Paul, though he lies with Peter, and the two 
could guard it better than if the body of one alone were present ? 

You see the malicious artfulness of the cunning Sinon!^ 
Because the Donation of Constantine cannot be produced, there- 
fore he said that the "privilege" is not on bronze but on paper 
records; therefore he said that it lies with the body of the most 
holy apostle, so that either we should not dare to seek it in the 
venerable tomb, or if we should seek it, we would think it rotted 
away. But where then was the body of the blessed Peter? Cer- 
tainly it was not yet in the temple where it now is, not in a place 
reasonably protected and safe. Therefore the Caesar would not 
have put the "page" there. Or did he not trust the "page" to the 
most blessed Sylvester, as not holy enough, not careful nor 
diligent enough? O Peter! O Sylvester! O holy pontiffs of the 
Roman church! to whom the sheep of the Lord were entrusted, 
why did you not keep the "page" entrusted to you? Why have 
you suffered it to be eaten by worms, to rot away with mold? I 
presume that it was because your bodies also have wasted away. 
Constantine therefore acted foolishly. Behold the "page" reduced 
to dust; the right conferred by the "privilege" at the same time 
passes away into dust. 

And yet, as we see, a copy of the "page" is shown. Who then 
was so bold as to take it from the bosom of the most holy apostle? 
No one did it, I think. Whence then the copy? By all means some 

1 Cf. supra, p. 85. 


scriptorum debet afferri, nee posterior Constantini temporibus. 
At is nullus affertur, sed fortasse aliquis recens. Unde hie habuit? 
Quisquis enim de superiore aetate historiam texit, aut Spiritu 
Sancto dietante loquitur, aut veterum scriptorum et eorum quidem 
qui de sua aetate seripserunt sequitur auctoritatem. Quare qui- 
cumque veteres non sequitur, is de illorum numero erit quibus ipsa 
vetustas praebet audaeiam mentiendi. Quod si quo in loeo ista res 
legitur, non aliter eum antiquitate eonsentit quam ilia glossatoris^ 
Aeeursii de legatis Romanis ad leges aecipiendas dimissis in 
Graeeiam plusquam stulta narratio cum Tito Livio aliisque prae- 
stantissimis seriptoribus convenit. 

"Datum Romae tertio Kalendas^ Aprilis, Constantino Augusto 
quarto consule et Gallieano quarto consule." 

Diem posuit penultimum Martii ut sentiremus hoc factum esse 
sub tempus sanctorum dierum, qui illo plerumque tempore solent 
esse. Et Constantino quartum consule, et Gallieano quartum con- 
sule! Mirum si uterque ter fuerat consul et in quarto consulatu 
forent eollegae! Sed mirandum magis Augustum leprosum ele- 
phantia, qui morbus inter ceteros ut elephas inter beluas eminet, 
velle etiam aceipere consulatum, cum rex Azarias simul ac lepra 
tactus est in privato se eontinuerit, procuratione regni ad lonatam'' 
filium relegata, ut fere omnes leprosi feeerunt! Quo uno argumento 
totum prorsus privilegium confutatur, profligatur, evertitur. Ac 
ne quis ambigat ante leprosum esse debuisse quam consulem, sciat 
et ex medicina paulatim hune morbum suecrescere, et ex notitia 

iglosatoris; MS. 

2 Kalendarum ; Bonneau. Kalendarum Apriliarum; Zeumer's text of the Con- 
stitutum Constantini. 
2 Joathan ; Bonneau. 


ancient writer ought to be adduced, one not later than the time 
of Constantine. However, none such is adduced, but as it happens 
some recent writer or other. Whence did he get it? For whoever 
composes a narrative about an earher age, either writes at the 
dictation of the Holy Spirit, or follows the authority of former 
writers, and of those, of course, who wrote concerning their own 
age. So whoever does not follow earlier writers will be one of 
those to whom the remoteness of the event affords the boldness 
to lie. But if this story is to be read anywhere, it is not consistent 
with antiquity any more than that stupid narrative of the glossa- 
tor Accursius about Roman ambassadors being sent to Greece to 
get laws agrees with Titus Livius and the other best writers. 

"Given at Rome, on the third day before the Kalends of April, 
Constantine Augustus consul for the fourth time, and Gallicanus 
consul for the fourth time."^ 

He took the next to the last day of March so that we might 
feel that this was done in the season of holy days, which, for the 
most part, come at that time. And "Constantine consul for the 
fourth time, and Gallicanus consul for the fourth time." Strange 
if each had been consul thrice, and they were colleagues in a 
fourth consulship! But stranger still that the Augustus, a leper, 
with elephantiasis (which disease is as remarkable among diseases, 
as elephants are among animals), should want to even accept a 
consulship, when king Azariah, as soon as he was affected with 
leprosy, kept himself secluded, while the management of the king- 
dom was given over to Jotham his son;^ and almost all lepers 
have acted similarly. And by this argument alone the whole 
"privilege" is confuted outright, destroyed, and overturned. And 
if any one disputes the fact that Constantine must have been 
leprous before he was consul, he should know that according to 
physicians this disease develops gradually, that according to the 

1 In the best text of the Donation this is not called the fourth consulship of 
Gallicanus. In any case, however, the date is impossible; no such consulship as 
this is known. 

2 II Kings XV, S. 


antiquitatis consulatum iniri lanuario mense magistratumque esse 
annuum, et haec Martio proximo gesta referuntur. 

Ubi neque hoc^ silebo; in epistolis scribi solere "datum," non 
autem in ceteris, nisi apud indoctos. Dicuntur enim epistolae dari 
vel illi, vel ad ilium; illi quidem qui perfert ut puta tabellario, ut 
reddat et in manum porrigat homini cui mittuntur ; ad ilium vero 
ut ei a perferente reddantur, hie est is cui mittuntur.^ Privilegium 
autem, ut aiunt, Constantini, quod reddi alicui non debebat, nee 
dari debuit dici: ut appareat eum qui sic locutus est mentitum 
esse, nee' scisse fingere quod Constantinum dixisse ac fecisse veri- 
simile esset. Cuius stultitiae atque vesaniae affines se ae soeios 
faeiunt quicumque hune vera dixisse existimant atque defendunt; 
licet nihil iam habeant quo opinionem suam, non dico defendere, 
sed honeste excusare, possint. 

An honesta erroris excusatio est, cum patefaetam videas veri- 
tatem, nolle illi acquiescere quia nonnulli magni homines aliter 
senserint?* Magni, inquam, dignitate, non sapientia nee virtute. 
Unde tantum'' seis an illi quos tu sequeris, si eadem audissent 
quae tu, mansuri in sententia fuerint, an a sententia reeessuri? 
Et nihilominus indignissimum est plus homini velle tribuere quam 
veritati, id est Deo. Ita enim quidam omnibus defecti rationibus 
Solent mihi^ respondere: Cur tot summi pontifiees donationem 
hanc veram esse crediderunt? Testificor vos, me vocatis quo nolo, 
et invitum me maledicere summis pontificibus cogitis, quos magis 
in delictis suis operire vellem. Sed pergamus ingenue loqui, quan- 
doquidem aliter agi nequit haec causa. 

Ut fatear eos ita credidisse, et non malitia'' fecisse; quid mirum 

1 Omit hoc; Hutten, Bonneau. 

2 Omit ad ilium vero ... is cui mittuntur ; Hutten, Bonneau. 
8ne;MS. ■'senserunt; Hutten. 

''tamen; Hutten. 'Omit milii; Hutten. 

' maliciaj MS. 


known facts of antiquity the consulate is an annual office and 
begins in the month of January; and these events are said to 
have taken place the following March. 

Nor will I here pass over the fact that "given" is usually written 
on letters, but not on other documents, except among ignorant 
people. For letters are said either to be given one (illi) or to be 
given to one (ad ilium) ; in the former case [they are given to] 
one who carries them, a courier for instance, and puts them in 
the hand of the man to whom they are sent; in the latter case 
[they are given] to one in the sense that they are to be de- 
livered to him by the bearer, that is [they are given to] the 
one to whom they are sent. But the "privilege," as they call it, 
of Constantine, as it was not to be delivered to any one, so also 
it ought not to be said to be "given." And so it should be apparent 
that he who spoke thus lied, and did not know how to imitate 
what Constantine would probably have said and done. And those 
who think that he has told the truth, and defend him, whoever 
they are, make themselves abetters and accessories in his stupidity 
and madness. However, they have nothing now with which to 
honorably excuse their opinion, not to speak of defending it. 

Or is it an honorable excuse for an error, to be unwilling to ac- 
quiesce in the truth when you see it disclosed, because certain great 
men have thought otherwise? Great men, I call them, on account 
of their position, not on account of their wisdom or their good- 
ness. How do you even know whether those whom you follow, 
had they heard what you hear, would have continued in their 
belief, or would have given it up? And moreover it is most con- 
temptible to be willing to pay more regard to man than to Truth, 
that is, to God. [I say this] for some men beaten at every argu- 
ment are wont to answer thus: "Why have so many supreme 
pontiffs believed this Donation to be genuine ?" I call you to wit- 
ness, that you urge me where I would not, and force me against 
my will to rail at the supreme pontiffs whose faults I would prefer 
to veil. But let us proceed to speak frankly, inasmuch as this case 
cannot be conducted in any other way. 

Admitting that they did thus believe and were not dishonest; 


si ista crediderunt, ubi tantum lucri blanditur, cum plurima, ubi 
nullum lucrum ostenditur, per insignem imperitiam credant? 
Nonne apud Aram Coeli, in tam eximio templo et in loco maxime 
augusto/ cernimus pictam fabulam Sibyllae et Octaviani, ut 
ferunt ex auctoritate Innocentii tertii haec scribentis, qui etiam de 
ruina templi Pads sub natale Salvatoris, hoc est in partu Virginis, 
scriptum reliquit? Quae ad evertendam magis fidem quia falsa, 
quam ad stabiliendam quia miranda sunt, pertinent. Mentirine ob 
speciem^ pietatis audet vicarius veritatis, et se scientem hoc 
piaculo obstringere? An non mentitur? Immo vero a sanctissimis 
viris se, cum hoc facit, dissentire non videt? Tacebo alios: 
Hieronymus Varronis testimonio utitur, decem Sibyllas fuisse; 
quod opus Varro ante Augustum condidit. Idem de templo Pads 
ita scribit: "Vespasianus et Titus Romae templo Pacis aedificato, 
vasa templi et universa donaria in delubro illius consecrarunt, 
quae Graeca et Romana narrat historia." Et hie unus indoctus 
plus vult libello suo etiam barbare scripto credi quam fidelissimis 
veterum, prudentissimorum hominum historiis! 

Quia Hieronymum attigi, non patiar banc contumeliam ipsius 
tacito^ praeteriri. Romae ex auctoritate papae ostenditur codex 
Bibliae,* tamquam reliquiae sanctorum luminibus^ semper accen- 
sis, quod dicunt^ scriptum chirographo Hieronymi. Quaeris argu- 
mentum? Quia multum, ut inquit Virgilius, est pictai vestis et 
auri: res quae magis Hieronymi manu indicat scriptum non esse. 

^ Hutten. angusto; MS. ^ Insert veritatis; Hutten. 

" tacite ; Hutten. *bybliae;MS. 

^5 luminaribus ; Hutten. "Hutten, Bonneau. dicant; MS. 


why wonder that they behaved these stories where so much profit 
allured them, seeing that they are led to believe a great many 
things, in which no profit is apparent, through their extraordinary 
ignorance? Do you not, at Ara Coeli, in that most notable temple 
and in the most impressive place see the fable of the Sibyl and 
Octavian^ depicted by the authority, they say, of Innocent III, 
who wrote it and who also left an account of the destruction of the 
Temple of Peace on the day of the Savior's birth, that is, at the 
delivery of the Virgin?^ These stories tend rather to the destruc- 
tion of faith, by their falsity, than to the establishment of faith, ' 
by their wonders. Does the vicar of Truth dare to tell a lie under 
the guise of piety, and consciously entangle himself in this sin? 
Or does he not lie? Verily, does he not see that in perpetrating 
this he contradicts the most holy men? Omitting others; Jerome 
cites the testimony of Varro that there were ten Sibyls, and Varro 
wrote his work before the time of Augustus. Jerome also writes 
thus of the Temple of Peace: "Vespasian and Titus, after the 
Temple of Peace was built at Rome, dedicated the vessels of the 
temple [of the Jews] and all manner of gifts in her shrine, as the 
Greek and Roman historians tell." And this ignorant man, alone, 
wants us to believe his libel, barbarously written at that, rather 
than the most accurate histories of ancient and most painstaking 
authors ! 

Since I have touched on Jerome, I will not suffer the following 
insult to him to be passed by in silence. At Rome, by the authority 
of the Pope, with the candles ever burning, as though for a relic 
of the saints, is shown a copy of the Bible, which they say is 
written in the hand of Jerome. Do you seek proof? Why, there is 
"much embroidered cloth and gold," as Virgil says, a thing which 
indicates rather that it was not written by the hand of Jerome. 
When I inspected it more carefully, I found that it was written 

^ This apocryphal story ran that the Sibyl prophesied of Christ, and that 
Augustus erected an altar to him. 

2 The Temple of Peace was built by Vespasian and was not destroyed until it 
was burned down in the time of Commodus. 


Ilium ego diligentius inspectum comperi scriptum esse iussu regis, 
ut opinor, Robert! chirographo hominis imperiti. 

Huic simile est, quamquam decem millia huiusmodi Romae sunt, 
quod inter religiosa demonstratur in tabella effigies Petri et Pauli, 
quam Silvester Constantino ab eisdem apostolis in somnis ad- 
monito in confirmationem visionis exhibuit. Non hoc dico quia 
negem effigies illas esse apostolorum (utinamque tam vera esset 
epistola nomine Lentuli missa de effigie Christi, quae non minus 
improbe ementita est quam privilegium quod confutavimus ! ) sed 
quia tabella ilia a Sylvestro non fuerit exhibita Constantino; in 
quo non sustineo animi mei admirationem continere. 

Disputabo enim aliquid de fabula Silvestri, quia et omnis in hoc 
quaestio versatur, et mihi cum sermo sit cum pontificibus 
Romanis, de pontifice Romano potissimum loqui decebit, ut ex 
uno exemplo facile aliorum coniectura capiatur. Et ex multis 
ineptiis quae ibi narrantur unam tantum de dracone attingam, ut 
doceam Constantinum non fuisse leprosum. Etenim Gesta Sil- 
vestri ab Eusebio quodam Graeco homine, ut interpres testatur, 
composita sunt,^ quae natio ad mendacia semper promptissima^ 
est, ut luvenalis satirica^ censura ait: 

"... Quicquid Graecia mendax 
Audet in historia." 

Unde draco ille venerat? Romae dracones non gignuntur. Unde 
etiam illi venenum? In Africa tantum pestiferi dracones ob 
ardorem regionis esse dicuntur. Unde praeterea tantum veneni 

1 Hutten, Bonneau. est ; MS. ^ prumptissima ; MS. 

2 satyrica ; MS. 


by order of a king, Robert, I think, and in the handwriting of an 
inexperienced man. 

Similarly, — there are indeed ten thousand things of this sort 
at Rome, — among sacred objects is shown the panel portrait of 
Peter and Paul, which, after Constantine had been spoken to by 
these apostles in his sleep, Sylvester produced in confirmation of 
the vision. I do not say this because I deny that they are portraits 
of the apostles (would that the letter sent in the name of Len- 
tulus about the portrait of Christ were as genuine, instead of 
being no less vicious and spurious than this "privilege" which we 
have refuted) , but because that panel was not produced for Con- 
stantine by Sylvester. At that story my mind cannot restrain its 

So I will briefly discuss the Sylvester legend, because the whole 
question hinges on this; and, since I have to do with Roman 
pontiffs, it will be in order to speak chiefly of the Roman pontiff 
so that from one example an estimate of the others may be 
formed. And of the many absurdities told in this [legend] I shall 
touch upon one alone, that of the serpent,^ in order to show that 
Constantine had not been a leper. And verily the Life of Syl- 
vester (Gesta Silvestri), according to the translator, was written 
by Eusebius,^ a Greek, always the readiest people at lying, as 
Juvenal's satirical judgment runs: 

"Whatever in the way of history a lying Greek dares tell.'" 

Whence came that dragon? Dragons are not engendered in 
Rome. Whence, too, his venom? In Africa alone, on account of 
its hot climate, are there said to be pest-producing dragons. 
Whence, too, so much venom that he wasted with pestilence such 

1 This episode in the Gesta, or Actus, or Vita, Silvestri, as may be gathered 
from Valla's subsequent discussion, involves an enormous serpent, dwelling in a 
cave under the Tarpeian rocic, devastating the entire city of Rome with his 
poisonous breath, appeased only by maidens being given him to devour, and 
finally bound forever in his cave by Sylvester. For references, cf. Coleman, Con- 
stantine, etc., pp. 161, 168. 

2 Apparently Valla assumes that the Gesta Silvestri was written by a Greek 
named Eusebius, but not Eusebius of Caesarea, author of the Church History. Cf., 
however, Coleman, Constantine, pp. 161-168. ^ gatura, x, 174-175. 


ut tam spatiosam civitatem peste corrumperet, praesertim cum in 
tarn alto specu demersus esset, ad quem centum quinquaginta 
gradibus descenderetur? Serpentes, excepto forsitan basilisco, 
non afflatu, sed morsu virus inspirant atque interimunt. Nee Cato 
Caesarem fugiens cum tanta hominum manu per medias Af ricae 
harenas, dum iter faceret ac dormiret, ullum suorum comitum^ 
serpentis afflatu vidit exstinctum; neque illi populi ob id aerem 
sentiunt pestilentem. Et si quid fabulis credimus, et Chimaera et 
Hydra et Cerberus sine noxa vulgo conspecti sunt ac tacti. 

Adhuc quin eum Romani potius occidissent? Non poterant, 
inquis? At multo grandiorem serpentem in Africa ad ripam 
Bagradae^ Regulus occidit. Hunc vero vel obstructo ore specus 
facile erat interimere. An nolebant? Ita, opinor, pro deo colebant, 
ut Babylonii fecerunt. Cur ergo, ut^ Daniel ilium dicitur occidisse, 
non et Silvester hunc potius occidisset, quem* canabaceo filo alli- 
gasset, et domum illam in aeternum perdidisset ? Ideo commenta- 
tor fabulae noluit draconem interimi, ne plane Danielis narratio 
referri videretur. Quod si Hieronymus, vir doctissimus ac fidelissi- 
mus interpres, Apollinarisque et Origenes atque Eusebius et 
nonnulli alii narrationem Beli fictam esse affirmant, si earn ludaei 
in Veteris Instrumenti archetypo non agnoscunt; id est, si doc- 
tissimi quique Latinorum, plerique Graecorum, singuli Hebrae- 
orum illam ut f abulam damnant, ego non banc adumbratam ex ilia 
damnabo, quae nullius scriptoris auctoritate fulcitur, et quae 
magistram multo super at stultitia? 

Nam quis beluae subterraneam domum aedificaverat? Quis 
illic eam collocaverat, et ne prpdiret atque avolaret (volant enim 
dracones, ut quidam aiunt, etsi alii negant) imperaverat? Quis 
genus illud cibi excogitaverat?" Quis feminas," easque virgines ac 

1 ullum sociorum ac comitum suorum; Hutten. 

2 Bonneau. Bragadae; MS., Hutten. 

' Insert olim and omit ilium ; Hutten, Bonneau. 
*quin; Hutten, Bonneau. 

"Instead of the two preceding sentences, Bonneau has; Volant enim dracones; 
imperite eum cuius genus illud sit excogitaverat. 
° foeminas; MS., so throughout. 


a spacious city as Rome; the more remarkable that the serpent 
was down in a cavern so deep that one descended to it by a hun- 
dred and fifty steps? Serpents, excepting possibly the basilisk, 
inject their poison and kill, not with their breath, but with their 
bite. Cato, fleeing from Caesar through the very midst of the 
African deserts with such a large force as he had, did not see any 
of his company slain by the breath of a serpent, either on the 
march or in camp; nor do the natives think the air pestilential on 
account of serpents. And if we believe at all in the stories, the 
Chimaera, the Hydra and Cerberus have all often been seen and 
touched without injury. 

Why hadn't the Romans already slain it instead [of waiting 
for Sylvester]? They couldn't, you say? But Regulus killed a 
much larger serpent in Africa on the banks of the Bagradas. And 
it was very easy indeed to kill the one at Rome; for instance, by 
closing the mouth of the cavern. Or didn't they want to? Ah, they 
worshipped it as a god, I suppose, as the Babylonians did ? Why 
then, as Daniel is said to have killed that serpent,^ had not Syl- 
vester killed this one when he had bound him with a hempen 
thread, and destroyed that brood forever? The reason the inventor 
of the legend did not want the dragon slain was that it might not 
be apparent that he had copied the narrative of Daniel. But if 
Jerome, a most learned and accurate translator, ApoUinaris, 
Origen, Eusebius and others affirm the story of Bel to be 
apocryphal, if the Jews in their original of the Old Testament do 
not know it; that is, if all the most learned of the Latins, most 
of the Greeks, and certain of the Hebrews, condemn that as a 
legend, shall I not condemn this adumbration of it, which is not 
based on the authority of any writer, and which far surpasses its 
model in absurdity? 

For who had built the underground home for the beast? Who 
had put it there and commanded it not to come out and fly away 
(for dragons fly, as some say; even though others deny it)? Who 
had thought out that kind of food for him? Who had directed 
that women, virgins at that, devoted to chastity, go down to him, 

1 Cf . the story of Bel and the Dragon in the Apocrypha. 



sanctimoniales, descendere praeceperat, nee nisi Kalendis? An 
tenebat draco quis esset dies Kalendarum? Et tam parco raroque 
erat cibo contentus? Nee virgines tam altum speeum, tam 
immanem et esurientem beluam exhorrebant? Credo, blandieba- 
tur eis draeo, ut feminis, ut virginibus, ut eibaria afferentibus. 
Credo, etiam eum illis fabulabatur. Quid ni, honore dicto, etiam 
eoibat? Nam et Alexander et Seipio ex draconis serpentisve eum 
matre concubitu geniti dieuntur. Quid, denegato postea victu, 
non potius aut prodisset,^ aut fuisset exstinetus? 

miram hominum dementiam, qui his anilibus deliramentis 
fidem habent! lam vero quamdiu hoc factitatum est? Quando 
fieri^ coeptum? Ante adventum Salvatoris, an postea? Nihil 
horum scitur. Pudeat nos, pudeat harum neniarum et levitatis 
plusquam inimicae.^ Erubescat Christianus homo, qui veritatis 
se ac lucis fiHum nominat, proloqui quae non modo vera non sunt, 
sed nee verisimiHa. 

. At enim inquiunt, hanc daemones potestatem in gentibus ob- 
tinebant, ut eas diis servientes illuderent. Silete, imperitissimi* 
homines, ne dieam seeleratissimos, qui fabuhs vestris tale semper 
velamentum obtenditis ! Non desiderat sinceritas Christiana patro- 
cinium falsitatis; satis per se, superque sua ipsius luce ac veritate 
defenditur, sine istis commenticiis ac praestigiosis fabellis, in 
Deum, in Christum, in Spiritum Sanctum eontumeliosissimis. 
Siecine Deus arbitrio daemonum^ tradiderat genus humanum, ut 
tam manifestis, tam imperiosis miraeulis seducerentur;^ ut pro- 
pemodum posset iniustitiae' aceusari, qui oves lupis eommisisset, 
et homines magnam errorum suorum haberent exeusationem? 
Quod si tantum olim licebat daemonibus, et nunc apud infideles 
vel magis lieeret; quod minime videmus, nee uUae ab eis huius- 
modi fabulae proferuntur. 

Tacebo de aliis populis; dieam de Romanis, apud quos pau- 
cissima miracula feruntur, eaque vetusta atque ineerta. Valerius 

1 prodiisset ; MS. 2 fuit; Hutten. 
^mimicae; Bonneau. ^ impudentissimi ; Hutten. 
''demonum; MS. « seduceretur ; Hutten, Bonneau. 
^ iniusticiae ; MS. 


and only on the Kalends? Or did the serpent remember what day 
was the Kalends? And was he content with such scant and occa- 
sional food? And did not the virgins dread such a deep cavern, 
and a beast so monstrous and greedy? I suppose the serpent 
wheedled them, as they were women, and virgins, and brought 
him his victuals; I suppose he even chatted with them. What if, 
pardon the expression, he even had intercourse with them; for 
both Alexander and Scipio are said to have been born by the 
embrace of a dragon, or a serpent, with their mothers! Why, if 
food were afterward denied him, would he not have come out 
then, or have died ? 

O the strange folly of men who have faith in these senile 
ravings! How long now had this been going on? When did the 
beginning occur? Before the advent of the Savior, or after? As 
to this, nothing is known. We should be ashamed! We should be 
ashamed of these silly songs, and this frivolity worse than dan- 
gerous! A Christian, who calls himself a son of truth and light, 
should blush to utter things which not only are not true, but are 
not credible. 

But, they say, the demons obtained this power over the heathen, 
so as to mock them for serving the gods. Silence, you utter 
ignoramuses, not to call you utter rascals, you who always spread 
such a veil over your stories ! True Christianity does not need the 
patronage of falsehood; it is maintained satisfactorily by itself, 
and by its own light and truth, without those lying and deceitful 
fables, — unmitigated insults to God, to Christ, and to the Holy 
Spirit. Would God thus have given the human race over into 
the power of demons, to be seduced by such evident, such impos- 
ing miracles, that he might well-nigh be accused of the injustice of 
turning sheep over to wolves, and that men should have good 
excuse for their errors? But if so much license was once given 
demons, even more would be given them now among infidels; 
which is by no means the case, nor are any legends of this sort 
told by them. 

Passing by other peoples, I will speak of the Romans. Among 
them the miracles reported are few, and they early and obscure. 


Maximus ait hiatum ilium terrae in medio foro, cum se in eum 
Curtius armatum adacto equo immisisset, iterum coisse inque 
pristinam formam continue revertisse. Item lunonem Monetam, 
cum a quodam milite Romano captis Veils per locum interrogata 
esset, an Romam migrare vellet, respondlsse velle. 

Quorum neutrum Titus Livius sentlt et prior auctor et gravior. 
Nam et hiatum permansisse vult, nee tarn fuisse subitum quam 
vetustum, etlam ante conditam urbem, appellatumque Curtium 
lacum quod in eo delituisset Curtius Mettius Sabinus Romanorum 
fugiens impressionem; et lunonem annuisse, non respondlsse, 
adlectumque fabulae postea vocem reddldisse. Atque de nutu 
quoque palam est illos esse mentitos, vel quod motum simulacrl, 
avellebant autem illud, Interpretati sunt sua sponte esse factum, 
vel qua lascivla hostllem et victam et lapideam deam interroga- 
bant, eadem lascivla annuisse finxerunt. Tametsi Livius^ inqult 
non annuisse, sed milites quod annuisset exclamasse. Quae tamen 
boni scriptores non defendunt facta, sed dicta excusant. Nam 
prout idem Livius ait; "Datur haec^ venia antiqultati, ut mis- 
cendo humana divinls primordla urbium augustlora faclat." Et 
alibi: "Sed in rebus tam antiquis si qua similia verl sunt pro veris 
accipiantur, satis habeam. Haec' ad ostentationem scenae gauden- 
tis miraculis aptiora quam ad fidem; neque affirmare neque 
refellere est operae pretium."* 

Terentius Varro, his duobuset prior et doctlor et, ut sentio, 
gravior auctor, ait trlplicem historlam de lacu Curtio a totidem 
auctoribus proditam; unam a Proculo, quod is lacus ita sit appel- 

1 Hutten, Bonneau. illius; MS. ^Qmit haec; Hutten. 

3hec; MS. ^ opereprecium ; MS. operepretium ; Hutten. 


Valerius Maximus tells that that chasm in the middle of the 
forum, when Curtius, armed and spurring on his horse, plunged 
into it, closed again, and returned forthwith to its former state/ 
Again, the [effigy of] Juno Moneta, when it was asked, in jest, 
by a certain Roman soldier at the capture of Veil, whether it 
wanted to move to Rome, replied that it did.^ 

Titus Livius, an earlier and more authoritative writer, knows 
neither of these stories. For he has it that the chasm was per- 
manent, not a sudden opening but an old one, there before the 
founding of the city, and called Curtius' Pond, because Mettius 
Curtius, a Sabine, fleeing from an attack by the Romans, had 
hidden in it; and that the Juno did not reply, but nodded assent, 
and it was added to the story afterwards that she had spoken.' 
And about the nod also, it is evident that they lied, either by inter- 
preting the movement of the image when they pulled it away as 
made by its own accord, or by pretending in the same joking way 
in which they asked the question that the hostile, conquered, stone 
goddess nodded assent. Indeed, Livy does not say that she nodded, 
but that the soldiers exclaimed that she nodded. Such stories, too, 
good writers do not defend as facts, but excuse as tradition. 
For even as this same Livy says, "This indulgence is to be 
granted antiquity, that by mingling the human and the divine it 
may make the beginnings of cities more august."* And elsewhere: 
"But in connection with events of such ancient times, if proba- 
bilities should be accepted as facts, no harm would be done. These 
stories are more suited to the display of a stage which delights in 
wonders, than to sober belief; it is not worth while either to affirm 
or to refute them."^ 

Terentius Varro, an earlier, more learned and, I think, more 
authoritative writer than these two, says there were three accounts 
of Curtius' Pond given by as many writers ; one by Proculus, that 

1 Factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri novem, V, vi, 2. 
^Ibid., I, viii, 3. ^ Livy, VII, 6, incorrectly summarized. 

*Livy, Preface, 7. ^ Livy, V, 21, 9. 


latus a Curtio, qui se in eum deiecit; alteram a Pisone, quod a 
Mettio Sabino; tertiam a Cornelio, cuius rei socium addit Lucta- 
tium, quod a Curtio consule, cui collega fuit M. Genutius.^ 

Neque vero dissimulaverim Valerium non plane posse repre- 
hendi quod ita loquatur, cum paulo post graviter et severe subi- 
ciat: "Nee me praeterit de motu et voce deorum immortalium 
humanis oculis auribusque percepto, quam in ancipiti opinione 
aestimatio versetur. Sed quia non nova dicuntur, sed tradita 
repetuntur, fidem auctores vendicent." De voce deorum dixit 
propter lunonem Monetam et propter simulacrum Fortunae, quod 
bis locutum fingitur his verbis: "Rite me, matronae, vidistis,^ rite 

At vero nostri fabulatores passim inducunt idola loquentia, 
quod ipsi gentiles et idolorum cultores non dicunt et sincerius 
negant quam Christiani affirmant. Apud illos^ paucissima mira- 
cula non fide auctorum, sed veluti sacra quadam ac religiosa 
vetustatis commendatione nituntur; apud istos recentiora quae- 
dam narrantur, quae illorum homines temporum nescierunt.* 

Neque ego admirationi sanctorum derogo, nee ipsorum divina 
opera abnuo,^ cum sciam tantum fidei quantum est granum sina- 
pis*' montes etiam posse transferre. Immo defendo ilia ac tueor, 
sed misceri cum fabulis non sino. Nee persuaderi possum hos' 
scriptores alios fuisse quam aut infideles, qui hoc agerent in 
derisum Christianorum, si haec figmenta per dolosos homines in 

^ Hutten. Genuitius; MS. Bonneau omits this sentence Terentius Varro . . . 
M. Genutius. 

2 dedistis ; Valerius Maximus, factorum et dictorum memorabilium, lib. i, viii, 4. 
s Bonneau. istos; MS., Hutten. *nescirent; Bonneau. 

s inficior; Bonneau. 'synapis; MS. 

' horum ; Bonneau. 


this pond was so called for a Curtius who cast himself into it; 
another by Piso, that it was named for Mettius the Sabine; the 
third by Cornelius, and he adds Luctatius as his associate in the 
matter, that it was for Curtius the consul, whose colleague was 
Marcus Genutius.^ 

Nor should I have concealed that Valerius cannot be altogether 
criticised for speaking as he does, since a little later he earnestly 
and seriously adds; "And I do not ignore the fact that as to 
human eyes and ears perceiving the movement and the voice of 
immortal gods, our judgment is rather confused by wavering 
opinion ; but because what is said is not new but the repetition of 
traditions, the authors may lay claim to credence."^ He spoke of 
the voice of the gods on account of the Juno Moneta,^ and on 
account of the statue of Fortune which is represented to have 
twice spoken in these words, "With due form have you seen me, 
matrons; with due form have you dedicated me."* 

But our own story-tellers every once in a while bring in talking 
idols of which the heathen themselves, and the worshippers of the 
idols, do not speak; rather they deny them more earnestly than 
the Christians affirm them. Among the heathen the very few 
wonders which are told make their way not by the belief of 
writers, but by the sanction of their antiquity, as something 
sacred and venerable; among our writers wonders more recent 
are narrated, wonders of which the men of those times did not 

1 neither disparage admiration for the saints, nor do I deny 
their divine works, for I know that faith, as much of it as a grain 
of mustard seed, is able even to remove mountains. Rather I 
defend and uphold them, but I do not allow them to be confused 
with ridiculous legends. Nor can I be persuaded that these writers '\ 
were other than either infidels, who did this to deride the Chris- ! 
tians in case these bits of fiction handed out by crafty men to the 

^Terentius Varro, de lingua latina, lib. v, 148-150. 

2 Valerius Maximus, factorum et dictorum memorabilium, lib. i, viii, 7. 

3 Ibid., i, viii, 3. 

* Ibid., i, viii, 4, with the substitution of "seen" for "given." 


manus imperitorum delata acciperentur pro veris, aut fideles 
habentes quidem aemulationem Dei, sed non secundum scien- 
tiam/ qui non modo de gestis sanctorum, varum etiam Dei 
genetricis atque adeo Christi improba quaedam et^ pseudevan- 
gelia scribere non reformidarunt. Et summus pontifex hos libros 
appellat apocryphos, quasi nihil vitii sit' quod eorum ignoratur 
auctor, quasi credibilia sint quae narrantur, quasi sancta et ad 
confirmationem religionis pertinentia; ut iam non minus culpae 
sit penes hunc qui mala probat quam penes ilium qui mala ex- 
cogitavit. Nummos reprobos discernimus, separamus, abicimus;* 
doctrinam reprobam non discernemus, sed retinebimus, sed cum 
bona miscebimus, sed pro bona def endemus ? 

Ego vero, ut ingenue'' feram sententiam, Gesta Silvestri nego 
esse apocrypha, quia, ut dixi, Eusebius quidam fertur auctor; 
sed falsa atque indigna quae legantur existimo cum in aliis tum 
vero in alio'' quod narratur de dracone, de tauro, de lepra, propter 
quam refutandam tanta repetii. Neque enim si Naaman leprosus 
fuit, continue et Constantinum leprosum fuisse dicemus? De illo 
multi auctores meminerunt, de hoc principe orbis terrarum nemo 
ne suorum quidem civium scripsit, nisi nescio quis alienigena, cui 
non aliter habenda est fides quam alteri cuidam de vespis intra 
nares Vespasiani nidificantibus, et de rana partu a Nerone emissa, 
unde Lateranum vocitatum locum dicunt, quod ibi rana lateat in 
sepulcro : quod nee vespae ipsae nee ranae, si loqui possent, dixis- 

^ aemulationem si non scientiam ; Bonneau. 

2 Omit improba quaedam et; Bonneau. 

3 Insert nisi ; Bonneau. * abiicimus ; MS. 

^Omit ut; Hutten. ingenuam; Hutten, Bonneau. 

* illo ; Hutten. eo ; Bonneau. 


ignorant should be accepted as true, or else believers with a zeal" 
for God, to be sure, but not according to knowledge, men who did 
not shrink from writing shameless accounts not only of the acts of 
the saints but even of the mother of God, and indeed of Christ 
himself, nor from writing pseudo-gospels. And the supreme pontiff 
calls these books apocryphal as though it were no blemish that 
their author is unknown, as though what was told were credible, 
as though they were sacred, tending to establish religion; so that 
now" there is no less fault on his part in that he approves evils, 
than on the part of the one who devised them. We detect spurious 
coins, we pick them out and reject them; shall we not detect 
spurious teaching? Shall we retain it, confuse it with the genuine 
and defend it as genuine? 

But I, to give my frank opinion, deny that the Acts of Syl- 
vester is an apocryphal book; because, as I have said, a certain 
Eusebius is said to have been its author; but I think it is false and 
not worth reading, in other parts as well as in what it has to say 
about the serpent, the buU,^ and the leprosy, to refute which I 
have gone over so much ground. For even if Naaman was leprous, 
should we forthwith say that Constantine also was leprous? Many 
writers allude to it in Naaman 's case; that Constantine the head 
of the whole earth had leprosy no one mentioned; at least none 
of his fellow citizens, but perhaps some foreigner or other, to be 
given no more credence than that other fellow who wrote about 
wasps building their nest in Vespasian's nostrils, and about the 
frog taken from Nero at birth, whence they say the place was 
called- the Lateran, for the frog (rana) is concealed (latere) there 
in its grave.^ Such stuff neither the wasps themselves, nor frogs, 
if they could speak, would have uttered! [I pass over the state- 
ment that boys' blood is a remedy for leprosy, which medical 

1 In a disputation between Sylvester and Jewish rabbis the rabbis are said to 
have killed a bull by shouting the sacred name, Jehovah, and Sylvester is said 
to have brought him to life by whispering the name of Christ. Cf. Coleman, Con- 
stantine the Great, etc., p. 163. 

2 These stories were to be found, among other places, in the MirabUia urbis 
Romae, a guidebook to Rome dating from the twelfth century. English translation 
by F. M. Nichols, The Marvels of Rome (London and Rome, 1889), pp. 19-20. 


sent;^ nisi ad deos Capitolinos hoc referunt, quasi illi loqui con- 
suessent et hoc fieri iussissent.^ 

Sed quid mirer haec non intelligere pontifices, cum nomen 
ignorent suum! Cephas enim dicunt vocari Petrum quia caput 
apostolorum esset, tamquam hoc vocabulum sit Graecum dvo rfj^ 
Ke<j)a\rj<;,^ et non Hebraicum, seu* potius Syriacum, quod Graeci 
KTjc^as^ scribunt, quod apud eos interpretatur Petnis, non caput. 
Est enim "petrus," et "petra," Graecum vocabulum, stulteque per 
etymologiam Latinam exponitur petra, quasi pede trita. Et metro- 
poUtanum ab archiepiscopo distinguunt* voluntque ilium a 
mensura civitatis dictum, cum Graece dicatur non jLier/aoTroXts sed 
IMrjTpoTToXis,^ id est mater-civitas sive urbs;* et patriarcham quasi 
patrem patrum; et papam ab interiectione pape dictum; et fidem 
orthodoxam quasi rectae gloriae; et Simonem media correpta, cum 
legendum sit media longa, ut Platonem et Catonem;' et multa 
similia quae transeo, ne culpa aliquorum omnes summos pontifices 
videar insectari. Haec dicta sint, ut nemo miretur si donationem 
Constantini commenticiam'" fuisse papae multi non potuerunt 
deprehendere, tametsi ab aliquo eorum ortam esse hanc fallaciam 

At dicitis, cur Imperatores, quorum detrimento res ista cedebat, 
donationem Constantini non negant, sed fatentur, affirmant, con- 

1 Bonneau inserts Transeo quod cruorem puerorum ad curationem leprae facere 
dicunt, quod medicina non confitetur. 

2 iusissent ; MS. 

^ Hutten, Bonneau. a^rJ tov /cec^aXi; MS. 

*sed; Hutten, Bonneau. 

5 Ki;0as ; MS. /crj^iJs ; Hutten. Kegels ; Bonneau. 

" Hutten, Bonneau. distingunt ; MS. 

'Bonneau. Metropolis sed Mitropolis ; MS. metropolis, sed AMjTpoirSXij ; Hutten. 

8 civitatis sive urbis; Hutten, Bonneau. 

' Insert ita legendum Simonem ; Hutten. 

i^commentitiam; MS. 


science does not admit; ^] unless they attribute this to the Capito- 
hne gods, as though they were wont to talk and had ordered this 
to be done! 

But why should I wonder that the pontiffs are not informed on ^| 
these points, when they do not know about their own name! For ' 
^,^ey say that Peter is called Cephas because he was the head of 
the apostles, as though this noun were Greek, from Ke^aXr), and 
not Hebrew, or rather Syriac; a noun which the Greeks write 
K7]<f)a<;, and which with them means rock (Petrus), and not head! 
For "petrus," "petra," (rock) is a Greek noun. And "petra" is 
stupidly explained by them through a Latin derivation, as from 
"pede trita" (trodden by foot) ! And they distinguish "metropoli- 
tan" from "archbishop," and claim that the former is so called 
from the size of the city, though in Greek it is not called 
/aerpoTToXis but ^r)Tp6TTo\i<;, that is, the mother-state or city. And 
they explain "patriarch" as "pater patrum" (father of fathers); 
and "papa" (pope) from the interjection "pape" (indeed) ; and 
"orthodox" as from the words meaning "right glory"; and they 
pronounce "Simonem" (Simon) with a short middle vowel, 
though it should be read with a long one, as are "Platonem" 
(Plato) and "Catonem" (Cato). And there are many similar 
instances which I pass, lest for the fault of some of the supreme 
pontiffs I should seem to attack all. These instances had to be 
given so that no one should wonder that many of the Popes have 
been unable to detect that the Donation of Constantine was 
spurious; though, in my opinion, this deception originated with 
one of them. 

But you say, "Why do not the Emperors, who were the sufferers 
from this forgery, deny the Donation of Constantine, instead of 
admitting it, confirming it and maintaining it?" A great argument! 

1 This clause, though not in the MS. or Hutten, seems necessary to the sense 
of the following clause, so I have translated it from Bonneau's text. In the Vita 
Silvestri we are told that the pagan priests ordered Constantine to bathe in 
infants' blood in order to cure himself of leprosy. Cf. Coleman, Constantine the 
Great, etc., p. 162. 


servant? Ingens argumentum; mirifica defensio! Nam de quo tu 
loqueris Imperatore? Si de Graeco, qui verus fuit Imperator, 
negabo confessionem: si de Latino, libenter etiam confitebor. Et- 
enim quis nescit Imperatorem Latinum gratis factum esse a 
summo pontifice, ut opinor Stephano, qui Graecum Imperatorem, 
quod auxilium non ferret Italiae, privavit, Latinumque fecit; ita 
ut plura Imperator a papa quam papa ab Imperatore acciperet? 
Sane Troianas opes quibusdam pactionibus soli Achilles et 
Patroclus inter se partiti sunt ! Quod etiam mihi videntur indicare 
Ludovici^ verba, cum ait; "Ego Ludovicus, Imperator Romanus 
Augustus, statuo et concedo per hoc pactum confirmationis 
nostrae tibi beato Petro, principi apostolorum, et per te vicario tuo 
domino Paschali^ summo pontifici et successoribus eius in per- 
petuum,' sicut a praedecessoribus* nostris usque nunc in vestra 
potestate et dicione^ tenuistis, Romanam civitatem cum ducatu 
suo et suburbanis atque viculis omnibus et territoriis eius mon- 
tanis atque maritimis litoribus et portubus, seu cunctis civitatibus, 
castellis, oppidis ac villis in Tusciae partibus."" 

Tune, Ludovice, cum Paschale pacisceris? Si tua, id est Imperii 
Romani, sunt ista, cur alteri concedis? Si ipsius et ab eo'' possi- 
dentur, quid attinet te ilia confirmare? Quantulum etiam ex 
Imperio Romano tuum erit^ si caput ipsum Imperii amisisti? A 
Roma dicitur Romanus Imperator. Quid, cetera quae possides 
tuane an Paschalis sunt? Credo tua dices. Nihil ergo valet donatio 
Constantini, si ab eo pontifici donata tu possides. Si valet, quo 
iure Paschalis tibi cetera remittit, retentis tantum sibi quae 
possidet? Quid sibi vult tanta, aut tua in ilium, aut illius in te 
de Imperio Romano largitio? Merito igitur pactum appellas, quasi 
quandam collusionem. 

1 Lodoici; MS., so throughout. ^pajcali; MS., so throughout. 

3 imperpetuum ; MS. * predecessoribus ; MS. 

"ditione; MS. •'Insert et cetera; Hutten. 
' ipso ; Hutten. 


a marvellous defense! For of which Emperor are you speaking? 
If of the Greek one, who was the true Emperor, I will deny the 
admission; if of the Latin, I will, confess it, and with pleasure. 
For who does not know that the Latin Emperor was gratuitously 
established by a supreme pontiff, Stephen I think, who robbed the 
Greek Emperor because he would not aid Italy, and established 
a Latin Emperor; so the Emperor thus received more from the 
Pope than the Pope from the Emperor?^ Oh, of course, Achilles 
and Patroclus divided the Trojan spoils between themselves alone 
on some such terms. The words of Louis [the Pious] seem to me 
to imply just this when he says, "I, Louis, Roman Emperor, 
Augustus, ordain and grant, by this compact of our confirmation, 
to you, blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, and through you to 
your vicar, the supreme pontiff, lord Paschal [I], and to his suc- 
cessors forever, to hold, just as from our predecessors until now 
you have held, under your authority and rule, the Roman state 
with its duchy, with all its towns and villages, its mountain dis- 
tricts, sea coasts and harbors, and all cities, forts, walled towns, 
and estates in the districts of Tuscany."^ 

Do you, Louis, make a pact with Paschal? If these are yours, 
that is, the Roman Empire's, why do you grant them to another? 
If they are his and are held in his own possession, what sense is 
there in your confirming them ? How little of the Roman Empire 
will be yours if you lose the very head of the Empire? From Rome 
the Roman Emperor takes his name. What! Are your other pos- 
sessions yours or Paschal's? Yours, you will say, I suppose. 
Therefore, the Donation of Constantine is not valid at all; that is, 
if you possess what was given by him to the pontiff. If it is valid, 
by what right does Paschal give you the rest [of the Empire], 
retaining for himself only what he possesses? What does your 
excessive prodigality toward him at the expense of the Roman 
Empire mean, or his toward you? Therefore, deservedly do you 
call it a "compact," something like collusion. 

^ It will be remembered that Valla wrote this while in the service of the King 
of Naples, who was in conflict with imperial as well as with papal claims. 
2 A forgery of the eleventh century. Cf. E. Emerton, Medieval Europe, p. 5$. 


"Sed quid faciam?" inquies. "Repetam armis quae papa occu- 
pat? At ipse iam factus est me potentior. Repetam lure? At ius 
meum tantum est quantum ille esse voluit;^ non enim hereditario 
nomine ad Imperium veni, sed pacto, ut, si Imperator esse volo, 
haec et haec invicem papae promittam. Dicam nihil donasse ex 
Imperio Constantinum? At isto modo causam agerem Graeci 
Imperatoris et me omni fraudarem Imperii dignitate. Hac enim 
ratione papa se dicit facere Imperatorem me, quasi quendam 
vicarium suum, et nisi promittam, non facturum; et nisi paream, 
me abdicaturum. Dummodo mihi det, omnia fatebor, omnia 
paciscar. Mihi tantum^ crede, si Romam ego ac' Tusciam possi- 
derem, tantum abest ut facerem quae facio; ut etiam frustra mihi 
Paschalis donationis, sicut reor falsae," caneret cantilenam. Nunc 
concedo quae nee teneo nee habiturum esse me spero. De iure 
papae inquirere non ad me pertinet, sed ad Constantinopolitanum 
ilium' Augustum." 

Iam apud me exeusatus es, Ludovice, et quisquis alius princeps' 
es Ludovici similis. Quid de aliorum Imperatorum cum summis 
pontifieibus paetione suspicandum est, cum sciamus quid Sigis- 
mundus fecerit, prineeps alioqui^ optimus ac fortissimus, sed iam 
affecta aetate minus fortis, quem per Italiam paucis stipatoribus 
saeptum in diem vivere vidimus Romae etiam fame periturum, nisi 
eum, sed non gratis — extorsit enim donationem — Eugenius pavis- 
set! Is eum Romam venisset ut pro Imperatore Romanorum coro- 
naretur, non aliter a papa eoronari potuit, quam* Constantini do- 
nationem ratam haberet eademque omnia de integro donaret. Quid 
magis contrarium quam pro Imperatore Romano' eoronari qui 
Romae ipsi renuntiasset, et eoronari ab illo quem et eonfiteatur et, 
quantum in se est, dominum Romani Imperii facial, ac ratam 

'voluerit; Hutten, Bonneau. ^tamen; Hutten, Bonneau. 

'aut; Hutten, Bonneau. ^ false; MS. 

5 Omit ilium; Hutten, Bonneau. « Omit prineeps; Hutten. 

^ alioquin ; MS. s insert ut ; Hutten, Bonneau. 

» Omit Romano ; Hutten. 


"But what shall I do?" you will say. "Shall I try to recover by 
force what the Pope has in his possession? But he, alas, has now 
become more powerful than I. Shall I seek to regain it by law? 
But my right is only such as he is willing for it to be. For I came 
to the throne, not through an inherited title, but by a compact 
that if I wish to be Emperor I should promise the Pope in turn 
such aiid such considerations. Shall I say that Constantine did not 
give away any of the Empire? But that way I should be arguing 
the cause of the Greek Emperor, and I should rob myself of all 
imperial dignity. For the Pope says he makes me Emperor with 
this very thing in view, as a kind of vicar of his; and unless I 
bind myself, he will not make me Emperor; and unless I obey I 
shall have to abdicate. If only he gives me the throne I will 
acknowledge everything, I will agree to everything. Only; take 
my word for it, if I had Rome and Tuscany in my possession, I 
would act quite differently and Paschal would sing me that old 
song of the Donation, spurious in my opinion, in vain. As things 
are, I yield what I neither have nor hope to have. To question the 
right of the Pope is not my concern but that of the Emperor 
yonder at Constantinople." 

I quite excuse you, Louis, and every other ruler similarly 
placed. What must we suspect of the compact of other Emperors 
with the supreme pontiffs, when we know what Sigismund did, a 
ruler otherwise most excellent and courageous, but at that time 
affected and weakened by age ? We saw him, hedged in through- 
out Italy, with a few retainers, living from day to day at Rome, 
and he would, indeed, have perished with hunger, had not Eu- 
genius fed him, — but not for nothing, for he extorted the Dona- 
tion from him. When he had come to Rome to be crowned 
Emperor of the Romans, he could not get the Pope to crown him, 
except by confirming the Donation of Constantine and by grant- 
ing anew all that it contained. What more contradictory than for 
him to be crowned Roman Emperor who had renounced Rome 
itself, and that by the man whom he both acknowledges and, so 
far as he can, makes master of the Roman Empire; and [for the 


habere donationem, quae vera si sit, nihil Imperatori de Imperio 
reliqui fiat? Quod, ut arbitror, nee pueri fecissent. Quominus 
mirum si papa sibi arrogat Caesaris coronationem, quae populi 
Romani esse deberet. 

Si tu, papa, et potes Graecum Imperatorem privare Italia pro- 
vinciisque^ occidentis, et Latinum Imperatorem facis, cur pac- 
tionibus uteris; cur bona Caesaris partiris; cur in te Imperium^ 
transfers ? 

Quare sciat, quisquis est qui dicitur^ Imperator Romanorum, 
me iudice se non esse nee Augustum, nee Caesarem, nee Impera- ' 
torem, nisi Romae imperium teneat; et nisi operam det ut urbem 
Romam recuperet, plane esse periurum. Nam Caesares illi priores, 
quorum fuit primus Constantinus, non adigebantur iusiurandum 
interponere quo nunc Caesares obstringuntur, sed quantum 
humana ope praestari potest, nihil imminuturos esse de ampli- 
tudine Imperii Romani, eamque sedulo adaueturos. 

Non ea re tamen vocati* Augusti, quod Imperium augere debe- 
rent, ut aliqui sentiunt Latinae hnguae imperiti, est enim Augustus 
quasi sacer ab avium gustu dictus, quae in auspiciis adhiberi 
solebant, Graecorum quoque testante lingua, apud quos Augustus 
a-efia.aT6<i^ dicitur, unde Sebastia vocata. Melius summus pontifex 
ab augendo Augustus dieeretur, nisi quod dum temporalia auget, 
spiritualia minuit. Itaque videas ut quisque pessimus est sum- 
morum pontificum, ita maxime defendendae huic donationi in- 
cumbere; qualis Bonifacius octavus, qui Caelestinum tubis parieti 
insertis decepit. Hie et de donatione Constantini scribit et regem 
Franeiae* privavit, regnumque ipsum, quasi donationem Con- 

^ provintiisque ; MS. ^ Insert non ; Bonneau. 

3 Omit qui dicitur; Hutten. *vocantur; Bonneau. 

^ MS. leaves blank. <repa<r6s • Hutten. ^ Insert regno ; Bonneau. 


Emperor] to confirm the Donation which, if genuine, leaves none 
of the Empire for the Emperor! It is a thing which, as I think, not 
even children would have done. So it is not strange that the Pope 
arrogates to himself the coronation of the Caesar, which ought to 
belong to the Roman people. 

If you, O Pope, on the one hand can deprive the Greek 
Emperor of Italy and the western provinces, and on the other you 
create a Latin Emperor, why do you resort to "compacts"? Why 
do you divide the Caesar's estate? Why do you transfer the 
Empire to yourself? 

Wherefore, let whoever is called Emperor of the Romans know 
that in my judgment he is not Augustus, nor Caesar, nor Em- 
peror, unless he rules at Rome; and unless he takes up the re- 
covery of the city of Rome, he will plainly be forsworn. For those 
earlier Caesars, and Constantine first of them, were not forced 
to take the oath by which the Caesars are now bound; but rather 
the oath that, so far as it lay in human power, they would not 
diminish the extent of the Roman Empire, but would diligently 
add to it. 

Yet not for this reason are they called Augusti, namely that 
they ought to augment the Empire, as some think whose knowl- 
edge of Latin is imperfect; for he is called Augustus, as con- 
secrated, from "avium gustus" (the taste, or appetite, of the 
birds), a customary step in consulting the omens: and this deriva- 
tion is supported by the language of the Greeks, among whom the 
Augustus is called Se/Sao-ros, from which Sebastia gets its name. 
Better might the supreme pontiff be called Augustus from 
"augere" (to augment), except for the fact that when he augments 
his temporal he diminishes his spiritual power. Thus it is a fact 
that the worse the supreme pontiff is, the more he exerts himself 
to defend this Donation. Take the case of Boniface VIII, who 
deceived Celestine by means of pipes fixed in the wall.^ He both 
writes concerning the Donation of Constantine, and he despoils 
the French king; and, as though he wished to put the Donation 

^ Gossip had it that Boniface VIII induced his predecessor to abdicate by 
angelic warnings, which he himself produced through improvised speaking tubes. SovjvXd"? 


stantini exsequi vellet, ecclesiae Romanae fuisse et esse subiectum 
iudicavit; quod statim successores eius, Benedictus et Clemens, ut 
improbum iniustumque revocarunt. 

Verum quid sibi vult ista vestra, pontifices Romani, sollicitudo 
quod a singulis Imperatoribus donationem Constantini exigitis 
confirmari, nisi quod iuri diffiditis vestro? Sed laterem lavatis, ut 
dicitur; nam neque ilia umquam fuit, et quod non est confirmari 
non potest; et quicquid donant Caesares, decepti exemplo Con- 
stantini faciunt, et donare Imperium nequeunt. 

Age vero, demus Constantinum donasse Silvestrumque ali- 
quando possedisse, sed postea vel ipsum, vel aliquem ipsorum^ a 
possessione deiectum. (Loquor nunc de his quae papa non possi- 
det; postea loquar de his quae possidet.) Quid possum vobis 
magis dare quam ut ea quae nee fuerunt nee esse potuerunt fuisse 
concedam? Tamen^ dico vos nee iure divino nee iure humano ad 
recuperationem agere posse. In lege veteri Hebraeus supra sextum 
annum Hebraeo servire vetabatur, et quinquagesimo^ quoque 
anno omnia redibant ad pristinum dominum. Tempore gratiae 
Christianus a vicario Christi, redemptoris nostrae servitutis, 
premetur servitio aeterno? Quid dicam! Revoeabitur ad servitu- 
tem postquam liber f actus est diuque potitus libertate ? 

Sileo quam saevus, quam vehemens, quam barbarus dominatus 
frequenter est sacerdotum; quod si antea ignorabatur, nuper est 
cognitum ex monstro illo atque portento, Joanne Vitellesco, cardi- 
nale et patriarcha, qui gladium Petri quo auriculam Malcho 
abscidit in Christianorum sanguine lassavit; quo gladio et ipse 

1 ipsius successorum ; Bonneau. ^ tantum ; MS. 

3 quinquagessimo ; MS. 


of Constantine in execution, he decrees that the kingdom itself 
belonged to and was subject to the Roman church. This decretal 
his successors, Benedict and Clement, revoked outright, as wicked 
and unjust. 

But what is the significance of your anxiety, Roman pontiffs, 
in requiring each Emperor to confirm the Donation of Constan- 
tine, unless it be that you distrust its legality? But you are wash- 
ing bricks [you labor in vain], as they say; for that Donation 
never existed, and since it does not exist it cannot be confirmed; 
and whatever the Caesars grant, their acts are due to deception 
as to the precedent of Constantine; and they cannot grant the 

However, let us grant that Constantine made the Donation and 
that Sylvester was at one time in possession, but afterwards either 
he himself or another of the Popes lost possession. (I am speaking 
now of that of which the Pope is not in possession; later on I 
will speak of that of which he is in possession.) What more can 
I grant you than to concede the existence of that which never was 
and never could be? But even so, I say that you cannot effect 
a recovery either by divine or by human law. In the ancient law 
it was forbidden that a Hebrew be a Hebrew's slave more than 
six years, and every fiftieth year also everything reverted to the 
original owner. Shall a Christian, in the dispensation of grace, 
be oppressed in eternal slavery by the vicar of the Christ who 
redeemed us from our servitude? What do I say! Shall he be 
recalled to servitude after he has been set free and has long 
enjoyed his freedom? 

How brutal, how violent, how barbarous the tyranny of priests 
often is, I do not say. If this was not known before, it has lately 
been learned from that monster of depravity, John Vitelleschi, 
cardinal and patriarch, who wore out the sword of Peter, with 
which [the apostle] cut off the ear of Malchus, with the blood of 
Christians. By this sword he himself also perished.^ But is it true 

1 The assassination of Vitelleschi, supposedly by order of the Pope, took place 
in March, 1440, and is one of the means of dating Valla's treatise. 



periit. An vero populis Israel a domo David et Salomonis, quos 
prophetae a Deo missi unxerant, tamen propter graviora onera 
desciscere licuit, factumque eorum Deus probavit; nobis ob tan- 
tam tyrannidem desciscere non licebit, ab his praesertim qui nee 
sunt reges, nee esse possunt, et qui de pastoribus ovium, id est 
animarum, facti sunt fures ac latrones? 

Et, ut ad ius humanum veniam, quis ignorat nullum ius esse 
bellorum; aut si quod est, tamdiu valere quamdiu possideas quae 
bello parasti? Nam cum possessionem perdis, et ius perdidisti; 
ideoque captivos, si fugerint, nemo ad iudicem repetere solet; 
etiam nee praedas,^ si eas priores domini receperint. Apes et 
quaedam alia volucrum genera, si e privato meo longius evola- 
verint et in alieno desederint, repeti non queunt. Tu homines, non 
modo liberum animal, sed dominum ceterorum, si se in liber- 
tatem manu et armis asserant, non manu et armis repetes, sed 
iure, quasi tu homo sis, illi pecudes. 

Neque est quod dicas : Romani iuste bella nationibus intulerunt, 
iusteque libertate illas exuerunt. Noli me ad istam vocare quaes- 
tionem,^ ne quid in Romanos meos cogar dicere; quamquam 
nullum crimen tam grave esse potuit ut aeternam mererentur 
populi servitutem; cum eo quod saepe culpa principis, magnive 
alicuius in republica civis, bella gesserunt, et victi immerita 
servitutis poena affecti sunt; quorum exemplis plena sunt omnia. 

Neque vero lege naturae comparatum est, ut populus sibi 
populum subigat. Praecipere aliis eosque exhortari possumus; 
imperare illis ac vim afferre non possumus, nisi relicta humanitate 
velimus ferociores beluas imitari, quae sanguinarium in infirmiores 
imperium exercent, ut leo in quadrupedes, aquila in volucres, 
delphinus in pisces. Verumtamen hae beluae non in suum genus 

1 predas ; MS., so throughout. ^ questionem ; MS. 


that the people of Israel were permitted to revolt from the house 
of David and Solomon whom prophets sent by God had anointed, 
because their impositions were too heavy; and that God approved 
their act? May we not revolt on account of such great tyranny, 
particularly from those who are not kings, and cannot be; and 
who from being shepherds of the sheep, that is to say, of souls, 
have become thieves and brigands ? 

And to come to human law, who does not know that there is 
no right conferred by war, or if there is any, that it prevails just 
as long as you possess what you have gotten by war? For when 
you lose possession, you have lost the right. And so ordinarily, 
if captives have escaped no one summons them into court: and so 
also with plunder if the former owners have recovered it. Bees 
and any other kind of winged creatures, if they have flown away 
far from my property and have settled on another's, cannot 
be reclaimed. And do you seek to reclaim men, who are not only 
free creatures, but masters of others, when they set themselves 
free by force of arms, [reclaim them] not by force of arms, but 
by law, as though you were a man, and they sheep? 

Nor can you say, "The Romans were [considered] just in 
waging wars against the nations, and just in depriving them of 
liberty." Do not drag me into that discussion, lest I be forced to 
speak against my fellow Romans. However, no fault could be so 
serious that people should merit everlasting servitude therefor. 
And in this connection [one must remember also] that people 
often waged a war for which a prince or some important citizen 
in the Republic was to blame, and, being conquered, were un- 
deservedly punished with servitude. There are everywhere abun- 
dant examples of this. 

Nor in truth does the law of nature provide that one people 
should subjugate another people to itself. We can instruct others, 
we can urge them; we cannot rule them and do them violence, 
unless, leaving humanity aside, we wish to copy the more savage 
beasts which force their bloody rule upon the weaker, as the lion 
among quadrupeds, the eagle among birds, the dolphin among 
fish. Yet even these creatures do not vaunt authority over their 


sibi ius vindicant/ sed in inferius. Quod quanto magis faciendum 
nobis est, et homo homini religioni habendus, cum, ut M. Fabius 
inquit, nulla supra terras adeo rabiosa belua, cui non imago sua 
sancta sit. 

Itaque quattuor fere causae sunt ob quas bella inferuntur: aut 
ob ulciscendam iniuriam defendendosque amicos; aut timore acci- 
piendae postea calamitatis, si vires aliorum augeri sinantur; aut 
spe praedae; aut gloriae cupiditate; quarum prima nonnihil 
honesta, secunda parum, duae posteriores nequaquam honestae 
sunt. Et Romanis quidem illata fuere bella frequenter, sed post- 
quam se defenderant, et illis et aliis ipsi intulerunt; nee ulla gens 
est quae dicioni eorum cesserit, nisi bello victa et domita, quam 
recte aut qua causa, ipsi viderint. Eos ego nolim nee damnare, 
tamquam iniuste pugnaverint, nee absolvere tamquam iuste; 
tantum dicam eadem ratione Romanes ceteris bella intulisse qua 
reliqui populi regesque, atque ipsis qui bello lacessiti victique sunt 
licuisse deficere a Romanis, ut ab aliis dominis defecerunt; ne 
forte, quod nemo diceret, imperia omnia ad vetustissimos illos, 
qui primi domini fuere, id est, qui primi praeripuere aliena, 

Et tamen melius in victis bello nationibus populo Romano quam 
Caesaribus rempublicam opprimentibus ius est. Quocirca si fas 
erat gentibus a Constantino, et quod multo plus est -a populo 
Romano desciscere, profecto et ab eo ius erit cuicumque cesserit 
ille ius suum. Atque, ut audacius agam, si Romanis licebat Con- 
stantinum aut exigere ut Tarquinium, aut oecidere ut lulium 
Caesarem, multo magis eum vel Romanis vel provinciis licebit 
oecidere qui in locum Constantini utcumque successit. Hoc etsi 
verum, tamen ultra causam meam est, et ideirco^ me reprimere 
volo nee aliud ex his coUigere quae dixi, nisi ineptum esse, ubi 

ivendicant; MS, ^j^girco; MS. 


own kind, but over an inferior. How much more ought we to act 
thus, and as men have due regard for men, since in the words of 
Marcus Fabius there is no beast upon the earth so fierce that his 
own likeness is not sacred to him ? 

Now there are four reasons why wars are waged: either for 
avenging a wrong and defending friends; or for fear of incurring 
disaster later, if the strength of others is allowed to increase; or 
for hope of booty; or for desire of glory. Of these the first is 
rather honorable, the second less so, and the last two are far from 
honorable. And wars were indeed often waged against the Ro- 
mans, but after they had defended themselves, they waged war 
against their assailants and against others. Nor is there any 
nation which yielded to their sway unless conquered in war and 
subdued; whether justly, or for what cause, they themselves could 
judge. I should be unwilling to condemn them as fighting unjustly 
or to acquit them as fighting in a just cause. I can only say that 
the Roman people waged wars against others for the same reason 
as other peoples and kings did, and that it was left open even to 
those who were attacked and conquered in war to revolt from the 
Romans just as they revolted from other masters; lest perchance 
(and none would agree to this) all authority should be imputed 
to the oldest people who were first masters ; that is, to those who 
were the first to take possession of what belonged to others. 

And yet the Roman people had a better right over nations 
conquered in war than had the Caesars in their overthrow of the 
Republic. Wherefore, if it was right for the nations to revolt \ 
from Constantine, and, what is far more, from the Roman people, \ 
surely it will be right to revolt from him to whom Constantine 
gave his authority. And to put the matter more boldly, if the 
Roman people were free either to drive Constantine out, as they 
did Tarquinius, or to slay him, as they did Julius Caesar, much 
more will the Romans or the provinces be free to slay him, who 
at any time has succeeded Constantine. But though this is true, 
yet it is beyond the scope of my argument, and so I want to re- 
strain myself and not press anything I have said further than 
this, that it is folly to adduce any verbal right, where the right of 


armorum vis est, ibi ius quemque afferre verborum; quia quod 
armis acquiritur, idem rursus armis amittitur. 

Eo quidem magis, quod aliae novae gentes, ut de Gothis 
accepimus, quae numquam sub imperio Romano fuerunt, fugatis 
veteribus incolis, Italiam et multas provincias occuparunt, quas 
in servitutem revocari in qua numquam fuerunt, quae tandem 
aequitas est, praesertim victrices, et fortasse a victis? Quo 
tempore, si quae urbes ac nationes, ut factum fuisse scimus, ab 
Imperatore desertae ad barbarorum adventum necesse habuerunt 
deligere sibi regem, sub cuius auspiciis victoriam reportarunt, 
numquid hunc postea a principatu deponerent; aut eius filios, 
tum commendatione patris, tum propria virtute favorabiles 
iuberent esse privatos, ut iterum sub Romano principe essent, 
maxime cum eorum opera assidue indigerent, et nullum aliunde 
auxilium sperarent? Hos^ si Caesar ipse, aut Constantinus ad 
vitam reversus, aut etiam senatus populusque Romanus ad com- 
mune indicium, quale in Graecia Amphictyonum^ fuit, vocaret, 
prima statim actione repelleretur, quod a se olim custode desertos, 
quod tamdiu^ sub alio principe degentes, quod numquam alieni- 
genae regi subditos, quod denique homines libertati natos et in 
libertatem robore animi corporisque assertos, ad famulatum 
^ervitiumque reposceret. Ut appareat, si Caesar, si populus 
Romanus a repetendo exclusus est, multo vehementius papam 
esse exclusum ! Et si licet aliis nationibus quae sub Roma fuerunt, 
aut regem sibi creare, aut rempublicam tenere, multo magis id 
licere populo Romano, praecipue adversus novam papae ty- 

Exclusi a defendenda donatione adversarii, quod nee umquam 
fuit et si qua fuisset iam temporum conditione intercidisset, con- 
fugiunt ad alterum genus defensionis, et velut relicta urbe in 

ihoc; Hutten, Bonneau. - Amphitrionum ; MS., Hutten. 

standiu; MS., Hutten. 


arms prevails, because that which is acquired by arms, is likewise 
lost by arms. 

This, indeed, the more, that other, new, peoples as we have 
heard in the case of the Goths, who were never subject to Roman 
rule, after putting to flight the earlier inhabitants, seized upon 
Italy and many provinces. What justice, pray, is there in restor- 
ing these to a servitude which they have never experienced; 
especially as they are the conquering peoples; and to servitude 
perchance under the conquered peoples? And if at this time any 
cities and nations, deserted by the Emperor at the arrival of the 
barbarians, as we know to have been the case, had been compelled 
to elect a king under whose leadership they then won victory, 
is there any reason why they should later depose this ruler? Or 
should they bid his sons, popular it may be for their father's, 
praise, it may be for their own valor, become private citizens, 
that they might again become subjects of a Roman prince, even 
though they were greatly in need of their assistance and hoped for 
no aid elsewhere? If the Caesar himself, or Constantine, returned 
to life, or even the Senate and Roman people should call them 
before a general court such as the Amphictyony was in Greece, 
[the plaintiff] would at once be ruled out at his first plea because 
he was reclaiming to bondage and slavery those who once had been 
abandoned by him, their guardian, those who for a long time had 
been living under another ruler, those who had never been sub- 
ject to a foreign-born king, men, in conclusion, who were free- 
born and proclaimed free by their vigor of mind and body. How 
clear it should be, that if the Caesar, if the Roman people, is 
thus debarred from recovering control, much more decidedly is 
the Pope! And if the other nations which have been subject to 
Rome are free either to appoint a king for themselves or to main- 
tain a republic, far more are the Roman people themselves free 
to do this, especially against the innovation of papal tyranny. 

Estopped from defending the Donation, since it never existed 
and, if it had existed, it would now have expired from lapse of 
time, our adversaries take refuge in another kind of defense; 


arcem se recipiunt, quam statim deficientibus cibariis dedere 
cogentur. Praescripsit, inquiunt, Romana ecclesia in iis^ quae 
possidet. Cur ergo, quae maior pars est, ea reposcit, in quibus non 
praescripsit, et in quibus alii praescripserunt? Nisi id non licet 
aliis in hanc, quod huic licet in alios. 

Praescripsit Romana ecclesia! Cur ergo ab Imperatoribus 
totiens curat sibi ius confirmandum? Cur donationem confirma- 
tionemque Caesarum iactat? Si hoc unum satis est, iniurian* ei 
fads si de altero quoque iure non sileas. Cur igitur de altero non 
siles? Nempe quia hoc sibi non sufficit. 

Praescripsit Romana ecclesia! Et quomodo potest praescrip- 
sisse ubi de nuUo titulo sed de malefidei^ possessione constat; 
aut, si malefidei possessionem neges, profecto stultae fiidei negare 
non possis? An in tanta re tamque aperta excusata debet esse et 
iuris et facti ignorantia? Facti quidem, quod Romam provincias- 
que non dedit Constantinus, quod ignorare idiotae hominis est, 
non summi pontificis; iuris autem, quod ilia nee donari potuere 
nee aceipi, quod nescire vix Christiani est. Itane stulta credulitas 
dabit tibi ius in his quae, si prudentior fores, tua numquam fuis- 
sent? Quid! Nonne nunc saltem, postquam te per ignorantiam 
atque stultitiam possedisse docui, ius istud, si quod erat, amittes, 
et quod inscitia male contulerat tibi, nonne id rursum cognitio 
bene adimet, mancipiumque ab iniusto ad iustum dominum re- 
vertetur, fortassis etiam cum usufructu? Quod si adhuc possidere 
pergis, iam inscitia in malitiam' fraudemque conversa est, 
planeque effectus es* malefidei possessor. 

Praescripsit Romana ecclesia! O imperiti, O divini iuris ignari! 

^his; Hutten, Bonneau. ^malae fidei; Hutten, Bonneau, so below. 

3 maUciam ; MS. * est ; MS. 


figuratively speaking, the city being given up for lost, they betake 
themselves to their citadel, — ^which forthwith they are constrained 
by lack of provisions to surrender. "The Roman church," they 
say, "is entitled by prescription to what it possesses." Why then 
does it lay claim to that, the greater part, to which it has no title 
by prescription, and to which others are entitled by prescription; 
unless others cannot act toward it as it can act toward them? 

The Roman church has title by prescription! Why then does 
it so often take care to have the Emperors confirm its right? Why 
does it vaunt the Donation, and its confirmation by the Caesars? 
If this alone is sufficient, you seriously weaken it by not at the 
same time keeping silent about the other title [by prescription] . 
Why don't you keep silent about that other? Obviously because 
this is not sufficient. 

The Roman church has prescribed! And how can it have 
entered a prescription where no title is established but only 
possession through bad faith ? Or if you deny that the possession 
was a case of bad faith, at least you cannot deny that the faith 
[in the Donation] was stupid. Or, in a matter of such importance 
and notoriety, ought ignorance of fact and of law to be excused? 
Of fact, because Constantine did not make a grant of Rome and 
the provinces; a fact of which a man of the common people might 
well be ignorant, but not the supreme pontiff. Of law, because they 
could not be granted; which any Christian ought to know. And so, 
will stupid credulity give you a right to that which, had you been 
more conscientious, would never have been yours ? Well ! Now, at 
least, after I have shown that you held possession through igno- 
rance and stupidity, do you not lose that right, if it was such? 
and what ignorance unhappily brought you, does not knowledge 
happily take away again? and does not the property revert from 
the illegal to the legal master, perchance even with interest? But 
if you continue to keep possession in the future, your ignorance 
is henceforth changed into malice aforethought and into deceit, 
and you become a fraudulent holder. 

The Roman church has entered a prescription! O simpletons, 
O ignoramuses in divine law! No length of years whatever can 


Nullus quantusvis^ annorum numerus verum abolere titulum 
potest. An vero captus ego a barbaris, creditusque perisse,^ post 
centum annos quibus captivus fui, postliminio reversus paternae 
hereditatis repetitor excludar? Quid hac re inhumanius? Atque, 
ut aliquod afferam exemplum, num Jephte, dux Israel, reposcenti- 
bus filiis Ammon terram "a finibus Arnon usque in laboc atque in 
lordanem" respondit, "Praescripsit Israel iam per trecentos 
annos?" An quod numquam illorum, sed Amorreorum fuisset 
terra quam reposcerent ostendit; et hoc argumentum esse, ad 
Ammonitas^ illam non pertinere, quod numquam intra tot an- 
norum curriculum repoposcissent ? 

Praescripsit Romana ecclesia! Tace, nefaria lingua! Prae- 
scriptionem, quae fit de rebus mutis et irrationabilibus, ad homi- 
nem transfers, cuius quo diuturnior in servitute possessio eo est 
detestabilior? Aves ac ferae in se praescribi nolunt, sed quantoli- 
bet tempore possessae, cum libuerit et oblata fuerit occasio, 
abeunt: homini ab homine possesso abire non licebit?* 

Accipe unde magis f raus dolusque quam ignorantia Romanorum 
pontificum appareat utentium iudice bello non iure; cui simile 
quiddam primos pontifices in occupanda urbe ceterisque oppidis 
credo fecisse. Parum ante me natum, testor eorum memoriam qui 
interfuerunt, per inauditum genus fraudis Roma papale accepit 
imperium seu tyrannidem potius, cum diu libera fuisset. Is fuit 
Bonifacius nonus, octavo in fraude ut^ in nomine par, si modo 
Bonifacii'' dicendi sunt qui pessime faciunt. Et cum Romani 
deprehenso dolo apud se indignarentur, bonus' papa in morem 
Tarquinii summa quaeque papavera virga decussit. Quod cum 
postea, qui ei successit, Innocentius imitari vellet, urbe fugatus 

' quantumvis ; Hutten, Bonneau, so throughout. 

- periisse; Hutten, Bonneau, so throughout. 

5 Amonitas ; MS. ■• licet ; Hutten. 

•■^ et, instead of ut in; Hutten, Bonneau. "bonifatii; MS. 

'Bonifacius; Hutten, Bonneau. 


destroy a true title. Or indeed, if I were captured by barbarians 
and supposed to have perished, and should return again home 
after a hundred years of captivity, as a claimant of my paternal 
inheritance, should I be excluded? What could be more inhuman! 
And, to give another example, did Jephthah, the leader of Israel, 
when the Ammonites demanded back the land from "the borders 
of Arnon even unto Jabbok and unto Jordan," reply, "Israel has 
prescribed this now through three hundred years' occupation"? 
Or did he not show that the land which they demanded as theirs, 
had never been theirs, but had been the Amorites'? And the proof 
that it did not belong to the Ammonites was that they had never 
in the course of so many years claimed it/ 

The Roman church has prescribed! Keep still, impious tongue! 
You transfer "prescription," which is used of inanimate, senseless 
objects, to man; and holding man in servitude is the more detest- 
able, the longer it lasts. Birds and wild animals do not let them- 
selves be "prescribed," but however long the time of captivity, 
when they please and occasion is offered, they escape. And may 
not man, held captive by man, escape? 

Let me tell why the Roman pontiffs show fraud and craft rather 
than ignorance in using war instead of law as their arbiter, — 
and I believe that the first pontiffs to occupy the city [of Rome] 
and the other towns did about the same. Shortly before I was 
born, Rome was led by an incredible sort of fraud, I call those 
then present there to witness, to accept papal government or 
rather usurpation, after it had long been free.^ The Pope was 
Boniface IX, fellow of Boniface VIII in fraud as in name, — if 
they are to be called Boniface (benefactor) at all, who are the 
worst malefactors. And when the Romans, after the treachery 
had been detected, stirred up trouble, the good Pope, after the 
manner of Tarquinius, struck off all the tallest poppies with his 
stick.^ When his successor. Innocent [VII], afterwards tried to 

^ Judges xi, 12-28. 

2 For these episodes, cf. Creighton, History of the Papacy, etc., vol. I, passim. 

3 Tarquinius, by striking down the tallest poppies with his cane, gave the hint 
that the leaders of the opposition should be executed; cf. Livy, I, 54. 


est. De aliis pontificibus nolo dicere, qui Romam vi semper op- 
pressam armisque tenuerunt; licet, quotiens potuit, rebellavit; ut 
sexto abhinc anno, cum pacem ab Eugenio obtinere non posset, 
nee par^ esset hostibus qui earn obsidebant, et ipsa papam intra 
aedes obsedit, non permissura ilium abire priusquam aut pacem 
cum hostibus faceret aut administrationem civitatis relegaret ad 
cives. At ille maluit urbem deserere dissimulato habitu uno fugae 
comite, quam civibus gratificari iusta et aequa petentibus. Quibus 
si des electionem, quis ignorat libertatem magis quam servitium 
electuros ? 

Idem suspicari libet de ceteris urbibus quae a summo pontifice 
in servitute retinentur, per quem a servitute liberari debuissent. 
Longum esset recensere quot urbes ex hostibus captas populus 
Romanus olim liberas fecit, adeo ut Titus Flaminius omnem 
Graeciam, quae sub Antiocho fuisset, liberam esse et suis uti 
legibus iuberet. At papa, ut videre licet, insidiatur sedulo libertati 
populorum; ideoque vicissim illi quotidie oblata facultate (ad 
Bononiam modo respice) rebellant. Qui si quando sponte, quod 
evenire potest aliquo aliunde periculo urgente, in papale imperium 
concenserunt, non ita accipiendiun est concensisse, ut servos se 
facerent; ut numquam subtrahere a iugo coUa possent; ut postea 
nati non et ipsi arbitrium sui habeant; nam hoc iniquissimum 

"Sponte ad te, summe pontifex, ut nos gubernares venimus; 
sponte nunc rursus abs te ne gubernes diutius recedimus. Si qua 

1 pax; Hutten, Bonneau. 


imitate this procedure he was driven out of the city. I will not 
speeik of other Popes; they have always held Rome down by 
force of amis. Suffice it to say that as often as it could it has 
rebelled; as for instance, six years ago,^ when it could not obtain 
peace from Eugenius, and it was not equal to the enemies which 
were besieging it, it besieged the Pope within his house, and would 
not permit him to go out before he either made peace with the 
enemy or turned over the administration of the city to the citizens. 
But he preferred to leave the city in disguise, with a single com- 
panion in flight, rather than to gratify the citizens in their just 
and fair demands. If you give them the choice, who does not know 
that they would choose liberty rather than slavery ? 

We may suspect the same of the other cities, which are kept in 
servitude by the supreme pontiff, though they ought rather to be 
liberated by him from servitude. It would take too long to enu- 
merate how many cities taken from their enemies the Roman 
people once set free; it went so far that Titus Flaminius [Fla- 
mininus] set free the whole of Greece, which had been under 
Antiochus,^ and directed that it enjoy its own laws. But the Pope, 
as may be seen, lies in wait assiduously against the liberty of 
countries; and therefore one after another, they daily, as oppor- 
tunity affords, rebel. (Look at Bologna just now.) And if at any 
time they have voluntarily accepted papal rule, as may happen 
when another danger threatens them from elsewhere, it must not 
be supposed that they have accepted it in order to enslave them- 
selves, so that they could never withdraw their necks from the 
yoke, so that neither themselves nor those born afterwards should 
have control of their own affairs; for this would be utterly 

"Of our own will we came to you, supreme pontiff, that you 
might govern us; of our own will we now leave you again, that 
you may govern us no more. If you have any claim against us, let 

1 The ensuing episode occurred in 1434 and thus fixes the date of the writing of 
this passage as 1439 or 1440. Cf. Mancini, Vita di Lorenzo Valla, p. 163. 

2 Flamininus had defeated Philip V of Macedonia, and it was from Philip, not 
Antiochus, that he "freed" Greece. 


tibi a nobis debentur, ponatur calculus datorum et acceptorum. 
At tu gubernare invitos vis, quasi pupilli simus, qui te ipsum 
forsitan sapientius gubernare possemus. Adde hue iniurias quae 
aut abs te aut a tuis magistratibus huic civitati frequentissime 
inferuntur. Deum testamur, iniuria cogit nos rebellare, ut olim 
Israel a Roboam fecit. Et quae tanta fuit illi^ iniuria? Quanta 
portio nostrae calami tatis graviora solvere tributa? Quid enim si 
rempublicam nostram exhaurias? Exhausisti.^ Si templa spolies? 
Spoliasti. Si virginibus matribusque familias stuprum inferas? 
Intulisti. Si urbem sanguine civili perfundas? Perfudisti. Haec 
nobis sustinenda sunt? An potius, cum tu pater nobis esse desieris, 
nos quoque filios esse^ obliviscemur? Pro patre, summe pontifex, 
aut si te hoc magis iuvat, pro domino hie te populus advocavit, 
non pro hoste atque carnifice : patrem agere aut dominum non vis, 
sed hostem ac carnificem. Nos saevitiam tuam impietatemque, etsi 
iure offensae poteramus, tamen quia Christiani sumus, non imi- 
tabimur, nee in tuum caput ultorem stringemus gladium, sed te 
abdieato atque summoto, alterum patrem dominumve adopta- 
bimus. Filiis a mails parentibus a quibus geniti sunt fugere licet; 
nobis a te, non vero patre sed adoptivo et pessime nos tractante, 
non licebit? Tu vero, quae saeerdotii operis sunt, cura, et noli 
tibi ponere sedem ad Aquilonem et illinc tonando* fulgurantia 
fulmina in hune populum ceterosque vibrare." 

Sed quid plura opus est in re apertissima dieere? Ego non modo 
Constantinum non donasse tanta, non modo non potuisse Ro- 
manum pontifieem in eisdem praescribere, sed etiam si utrumque 
esset, tamen utrumque ius sceleribus possessorum exstinctum 
esse contendo, cum videamus totius Italiae multarumque pro- 
vinciarum cladem ac vastitatem^ ex hoe uno fonte fluxisse. Si fons 

^illa; Hutten, Bonneau. ^exhauristi; MS. 

^ non must have dropt out of the text. * Hutten, Bonneau. tonantem ; MS. 

s vastitate; MS. 


the balance of debit and credit be determined. But you want to 
govern us against our will, as though we were wards of yours, we 
who perhaps could govern you more wisely than you do yourself ! 
Add to this the wrongs all the time being committed against this 
state either by you or by your magistrates. We call God to witness 
that our wrong drives us to revolt, as once Israel did from Reho- 
boam. And what great wrong did they have? What [a small] 
part of our calamity is the [mere] payment of heavier taxes! 
What then if you impoverish the Republic? You have impover- 
ished it. What if you despoil our temples? You have despoiled 
them. What if you outrage maidens and matrons? You have 
outraged them. What if you drench the city with the blood of its 
citizens? You have drenched it. Must we endure all this? Nay, 
rather, since you have ceased to be a father to us, shall we not 
likewise forget to be sons? This people summoned you, supreme 
pontiff, to be a father, or if it better pleases you, to be their lord, 
not to be an enemy and a hangman; you do not choose to act the 
father or the lord, but the enemy and the hangman. But, since 
we are Christians, we will not imitate your ferocity and your 
impiety, even though by the law of reprisal we might do so, nor 
will we bare the avenging sword above your head; but first your 
abdication and removal, and then we will adopt another father or 
lord. Sons may flee from vicious parents who brought them into 
the world; may we not flee from you, not our real father but an 
adopted one who treats us in the worst way possible? But do you 
attend to your priestly functions; and don't take your stand in 
the north, and thundering there hurl your lightning and thunder- 
bolts against this people and others." 

But why need I say more in this case, absolutely self-evident 
as it is? I contend that not only did Constantine not grant such 
great possessions, not only could the Roman pontiff not hold 
them by prescription, but that even if either were a fact, never- 
theless either right would have been extinguished by the crimes 
of the possessors, for we know that the slaughter and devastation 
of all Italy and of many of the provinces has flowed from this 


amarus est, et rivus; si radix immunda, et rami; si delibatio 
sancta non est, nee massa. Ita e diverse, si rivus amarus, fons 
obstruendus est; si rami immundi, e radice vitium venit; si massa 
sancta non est, delibatio quoque abominanda^ est. An possumus 
principium potentiae papalis pro iure proferre, quod tantorum 
scelerum tantorumque omnis generis malorum cernimus esse 

Quamobrem dico, et exclamo, neque enim timebo homines, Deo 
fretus; neminem mea aetate in summo pontificatu fuisse aut 
fidelem dispensatorem aut prudentem; qui tantum abest ut dederit 
familiae Dei cibum, ut devorarit illam velut cibum et escam 
panis.^ Papa et ipse bella pacatis populis infert, et inter civitates 
principesque discordias ferit. Papa et alienas sitit opes, et suas 
exsorbet,* ut Achilles in Agamemnonem, Ar]fjLoj36po^ ySacriXevs, * 
id est populi vexator rex.^ Papa non modo rempublicam, quod 
non Verres, non Catilina, non quispiam peculator auderet, sed 
etiam rem ecclesiasticam et Spiritum Sanctum quaestui'' habet, 
quod Simon ille Magus etiam detestaretur. Et cum horum ad- 
monetur, et a quibusdam bonis viris reprehenditur, non negat, 
sed palam fatetur, atque gloriatur licere enim^ quavis ratione pa- 
trimonium ecclesiae a Constantino donatum ab occupantibus 
extorquere; quasi eo recuperato religio Christiana futura sit 
beata, — et non magis omnibus flagitiis, luxuriis libidinibusque 
oppressa, si modo opprimi magis potest, et ullus est sceleri ulterior 
locus ! 

Ut igitur recuperet cetera membra donationis, male ereptas a 
bonis viris pecunias peius effundit, militumque equestres pedes- 
tresque copias, quibus omnia infestantur, alit, cum Christus in tot 
millibus pauperum fame ac nuditate moriatur. Nee intelligit, O 

1 abhominanda ; MS., so throughout. 

2ut dederit familiae cibum, et escam panis; Hutten. donaret, instead of devo- 
rarit; Bonneau. 

^ exorbet; MS. * MS. leaves blank space for the Greek words. 

5 Omit id est populi vexator rex; Hutten, populi vorator, omitting id est and 
rex; Bonneau. 

" questui ; MS. ' ei ; Bonneau. 


single source. If the source is bitter, so is the stream; if the root 
is unclean, so are the branches; if the first fruit is unholy, so is 
the lump.^ And vice versa, if the stream is bitter, the source must 
be stopped up; if the branches are unclean, the fault comes from 
the root; if the lump is unholy, the first fruit must also be ac- 
cursed. Can we justify the principle of papal power when we 
perceive it to be the cause of such great crimes and of such great 
and varied evils ? 

Wherefore I declare, and cry aloud, nor, trusting God, will I 
fear men, that in my time no one in the supreme pontificate has 
been either a faithful or a prudent steward, but they have gone 
so far from giving food to the household of God that they havef 
devoured it as food and a mere morsel of bread! And the Pope 
himself makes war on peaceable people, and sows discord among 
states and princes. The Pope both thirsts for the goods of others 
and drinks up his own: he is what Achilles calls Agamemnon, 
Atj/ao/So/jos /SacriXevs, "a people-devouring king." The Pope not 
only enriches himself at the expense of the republic, as neither 
Verres nor Catiline nor any other embezzler dared to do, but he 
enriches himself at the expense of even the church and the Holy 
Spirit as old Simon Magus himself would abhor doing. And when 
he is reminded of this and is reproved by good people occasionally, 
he does not deny it, but openly admits it, and boasts that he is 
free to wrest from its occupants by any means whatever the 
patrimony given the church by Constantine; as though when it 
was recovered Christianity would be in an ideal state, — and not 
rather the more oppressed by all kinds of crimes, extravagances 
and lusts; if indeed it can be oppressed more, and if there is any 
cfime yet uncommitted! 

/ And so, that he may recover the other parts of the Donation, 
money wickedly stolen from good people he spends more 
wickedly, and he supports armed forces, mounted and foot, with 
which all places are plagued, while Christ is dying of hunger and 
nakedness in so many thousands of paupers. Nor does he know, 

1 A reminiscence of Rom. xi, 16. 


indignum f acinus! cum ipse saecularibus auferre^ quae ipsorum 
sunt laborat, illos vicissim sive pessimo exemplo induci, sive 
necessitate cogi, licet non est vera necessitas, ad auferenda quae 
sunt ecclesiasticorum. Nulla itaque usquam religio, nulla sanc- 
titas, nullus Dei timor; et quod referens quoque horresco, omnium 
scelerum impii homines a papa sumunt excusationem. In illo enim 
comitibusque eius est^ omnis facinoris exemplum, ut cum Esaia 
et Paulo, in papam et papae proximos dicere possumus : "Nomen 
Dei per vos blasphematur inter gentes. Qui alios docetis, vos 
ipsos non docetis; qui praedicatis non furandum, latrocinamini; 
qui abominamini idola, sacrilegium facitis; qui in lege et in 
pontificatu gloriamini, per praevaricationem legis Deum verum 
pontificem inhonoratis." 

Quod si populus Romanus ob nimias opes veram illam Romani- 
tatem perdidit, si Salomon ob eandem causam in idolatriam amore 
feminarum lapsus est, nonne idem putamus fieri in summo ponti- 
fice ac reliquis clericis? Et postea putamus Deum fuisse permis- 
surum ut materiam peccandi Silvester acciperet ? Non patiar banc 
iniuriam fieri sanctissimo viro; non feram banc contumeliam fieri^ 
pontifici Optimo, ut dicatur imperia, regna, provincias accepisse, 
quibus renuntiare" etiam solent qui clerici fieri volunt. Pauca 
possedit Silvester, pauca ceterique sancti pontifices, quorum 
aspectus apud hostes quoque erat sacrosanctus ; veluti illius 
Leonis, qui trucem barbari regis animum terruit ac fregit, quem 
Romanae vires nee'' frangere nee terrere potuerant. Recentes vero 
summi pontifices, id est divitiis ac deliciis^ affluentes, id videntur 
laborare, ut quantum prisci fuere sapientes et sancti, tantum ipsi 
et impii sint et stulti, et illorum egregias laudes omnibus probris 

1 aufferre ; MS. ^ esse ; MS. 

^Bonneau omits sanctissimo . . . fieri. *renundare; MS. 

^ Hutten, Bonneau. Omit nee; MS. 'delitiis; MS. 


the unworthy reprobate, that while he works to deprive secular 
powers of what belongs to them, they in turn are either led by 
his bad example, or driven by necessity (granting that it may not 
be a real necessity) to make off with what belongs to the officers 
of the church. And so there is no religion anywhere, no sanctity, 
no fear of God; and, what I shudder to mention, impious men 
pretend to find in the Pope an excuse for all their crimes. For he 
and his followers furnish an example of every kind of crime, 
and with Isaiah and Paul, we can say against the Pope and those 
about him: "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles 
through you, you who teach others, but do not teach yourselves; 
who preach against stealing and yourselves are robbers; who 
abhor idols, and commit sacrilege; who make your boast of the 
law and the pontificate, and through breaking the law dishonor 
God, the true pontiff."^ 

But if the Roman people through excess of wealth lost the well- 
known quality of true Romans; if Solomon likewise fell into 
idolatry through the love of women; should we not recognize 
that the same thing happens in the case of a supreme pontiff and 
the other clergy? And should we then think that God would have 
permitted Sylvester to accept an occasion of sin? I will not suffer 
this injustice to be done that most holy man, I will not allow this 
affront to be offered that most excellent pontiff, that he should 
be said to have accepted empires, kingdoms, provinces, things 
which those who wish to enter the clergy are wont, indeed, to 
renounce. Little did Sylvester possess, little also the other holy 
poritiffs, those men whose presence was inviolable even among 
enemies, as Leo's presence overawed and broke down the wild 
soul of the barbarian king, which the strength of Rome had not 
availed to break down nor overawe.^ But recent supreme pontiffs, 
that is, those having riches and pleasures in abundance, seem to 
work hard to make themselves just as impious and foolish as those 
early pontiffs were wise and holy, and to extinguish the lofty 

^ Free quotations from Rom. ii, 21-24. 

2 A reference to the well-known interview in which Leo I persuaded Attila to 
desist from his invasion of Italy. 


vincant. Haec quis Christiani nominis queat aequo animo ferre? 
Verum ego in hac prima nostra oratione nolo exhortari principes 
ac populos, ut papam effrenato cursu volitantem inhibeant eum- 
que intra suos fines consistere compellant, sed tantum admoneant, 
qui forsitan iam edoctus veritatem, sua sponte ab aliena domo in 
suam, et ab insanis fluctibus saevisque tempestatibus in portum 
se recipiet. Sin recuset, tunc ad alteram orationem multo truculen- 
tiorem accingemur. Utinam, utinam aliquando videam, nee enim 
mihi quicquam est longius quam hoc videre, et praesertim meo 
consilio effectum, ut papa tantum vicarius Christi sit, et non etiam 
Caesaris; nee amplius horrenda vox audiatur: "Partes eeelesiae," 
"Partes contra ecclesiam," "Eeelesia contra Perusinos pugnat," 
"contra Bononienses ! " Non contra Christianos pugnat eeelesia, 
sed papa; ilia pugnat contra spiritualia nequitiae in caelestibus. 
Tunc papa et dieetur et erit Pater Sanetus, pater omnium, pater 
eeelesiae; nee bella inter Christianos excitabit, sed ab aliis excitata 
eensura apostoliea et papali maiestate sedabit.^ 

1 MS. bears postscript ; Finis septimo Idus Decembris, Mccccli. Laus Deo. 


praises of those men by every possible infamy. Who that calls 
himself a Christian can calmly bear this ? 

However, in this my first discourse I do not wish to urge princes 
and peoples to restrain the Pope in his unbridled course as he 
roams about, and compel him to stay within bounds, but only 
to warn him, and perhaps he has already learned the truth, to 
betake himself from others' houses to his own, and to put to port 
before the raging billows and savage tempests. But if he refuses, 
then I will have recourse to another discourse far bolder than 
this.^ If only I may sometime see, and indeed I can scarcely wait 
to see it, especially if it is brought about by my counsel, if only 
I may see the time when the Pope is the vicar of Christ alone, and 
not of Caesar also! If only there wt>uld no longer be heard the 
fearful cry, "Partisans for the Church," "Partisans against the 
Church," "The Church against the Perugians," "against the Bo- 
lognese"! It is not the church, but the Pope, that fights against 
Christians; the church fights against "spiritual wickedness in 
high places."^ Then the Pope will be the Holy Father in fact as 
well as in name. Father of all, Father of the church; nor will 
he stir up wars among Christians, but those stirred up by others 
he, through his apostolic judgment and papal prerogative, will 

1 This other discourse did not appear. 

2 Eph. vi, 12. 

3 The MS., Cod. Vat. Lat. 5314, on which this translation is based, was finished 
December 7, 14S1.